Unsung Hero: Lisa Castaldo, West Haverstraw Fire Department Volunteer Firefighter

BY BARRY WARNER

A growing number of women are climbing tall aerial ladders and rescuing Rockland County residents from smoky rooms, as members of local volunteer fire companies. People who call 911 are not concerned about the gender of the volunteer firefighter who responds and rescues those who are plagued by a fire emergency.

Lisa Castaldo has been a ‘super-volunteer’ for over 20 years and has served as an Interior Firefighter, Fire Safety Officer, Vice-President of the RC Fire Police Association, member of the RC Fire Advisory Board, Vice-Chairperson of the RC Fire Services Museum Board and Fire Warden.

“An interior firefighter is trained and qualified to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), to advance hose lines into burning structures for the rescue of trapped or downed occupants and to tear down walls, ceilings and extinguish fires. A flashover is a near simultaneous ignition of the directly exposed combustible material in an enclosed area. When certain materials are heated, they undergo thermal decomposition and release flammable gases,” Lisa Castaldo told the Rockland County Times. “By executing infrared radiation as visible light, the hand-held or helmet-mounted thermal imaging camera allows a firefighter to see areas of heat through smoke and darkness.”

Castaldo continued, “The Fire Police provide traffic control at fires, car crashes and other fire department operations. These activities would include protecting firefighters and EMS personnel, protecting bystanders and using crowd control methods at emergencies, routing responding emergency vehicles to their assigned locations and re-routing non-emergency traffic away from emergency operations. Often first on the scene of the fire, Fire Police are able to report the status of the fire, plus the location of the structure and deploy apparatus using lights and equipment at road blocks.”

“As a Fire Safety Officer (FSO), I have a big set of eyes and ears to look at the ‘big picture’ of a fire. I am trained in building construction and can read smoke or fire behavior and can determine the stage of the fire.  As Fire Safety Officer (FSO) I am responsible for ensuring and maintaining fire safety of a facility. With a solid knowledge of up-to-date safety codes and regulations, I can implement preventative measures and maintain building fire safety standards” said Castaldo.

Lisa Castaldo,EdD is Director of Pupil Personnel Services at the Ramapo Central School District Office and is a Fire Warden at the headquarters building. Her responsibilities are:

–        Raise awareness to other staff about fire hazards existing in the workplace.

–        To instruct workers in how to respond in an emergency.

–        To lead fire drills and real evacuation procedures, including escape routes and exits.

–         To assist all people, including those with special needs and/or in wheelchairs.

–        To close the doors to help isolate the fire.

–     To guide everyone to the assembly area and assist in checking that everyone has arrived safely.

The RC Fire Services Museum is located on the lower floor of the Fire Training Center in Pomona, where space has been included for classrooms and a display of antiques and apparatus. Valuable memorabilia including donated badges, yearbooks, old pictures, belts and equipment relating to the local volunteer firefighters, ladies auxiliaries and other Firemanic Organizations of Rockland County have been collected and accurately preserved.

Lisa Castaldo concluded, “I volunteer to give back and help the community. My grandfather is a 60 year veteran of the S.W. Johnson Firehouse in West Haverstraw and was a firefighter at its first fire station. Firefighting is more accepting of women today and my 20 years of service have gone in the ‘blink of an eye’. I enjoy the camaraderie of the firehouse and firefighting has taught me structure, which has helped me deal with crises in my life.”

For additional information about becoming a volunteer firefighter, call The Rockland County Fire Training Center at 845-364-8808.