BY BARRY WARNER
While no two firefighters are alike, all exercise self-sacrifice in their commitment to the service. This week’s Unsung Hero, Emily Atar, embodies the increased role women have taken in the firefighting service in recent years.
Atar has been an active member of the Spring Valley Fire Department for over five years and also serves as the fire prevention appointee to present lessons to schools and camps. “She has conducted hundreds of fire prevention lessons for children in the diverse community and has also participated in structure fires extrication and other emergencies in which we dispatch to,” said Deputy Fire Chief Raymond Canario. “There’s no task she can’t complete and no obstacle she can’t overcome. I enjoy having her at part of our team to help people she doesn’t know and to risk her life at the ‘drop of a dime.’
Atar is also the leader at all fire prevention activities within the Jewish community because she can speak Hebrew.
“She has translated for us numerous times on emergency calls,” said Canario. “For instance, we had an extrication call in which a female was trapped underneath a vehicle. The woman didn’t speak English—only Hebrew. Firefighter Atar went with the patient to the hospital so that the person felt comfortable and had no fear. Now that’s dedication and work beyond the call of duty.”
Firefighters are extensively trained to extinguish fires that threaten property and civilian populations and to rescue people from dangerous situations, such as collapsed burning buildings or crashed vehicles.
“I was trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Spring Valley Ambulance Company and during Hurricane Sandy and transported firefighters to first and second degree fires,” said Atar, who studies nutrition and fitness at Queens College and has completed between 50 and 70 hours of Fire Fighter 1 (FF1) certification classes at the Fire Training Center in Pomona.
“It’s the first level of firefighting knowledge and skills program required to enable a firefighter to function as part of a firefighting team in a hazardous environment and under direct supervision,” she said, adding that she learned how to put on turnout gear in one minute, learn about knot tying and usage, use ropes and hoisting methods and become familiar with various tools and equipment.
“At the scene of a structure fire, the captain yells out commands about connecting the hoses or grabbing certain tools, such as the Halligan or Pike Pole. (The Halligan is a forcible entry tool, while the Pike Pole is used for reaching and pulling),” said Atar. “I’m also a member of the F.A.S.T. team—or Firefighter Assist Team—which is made up of two or more firefighters dedicated solely to the search and rescue of other firefighters in distress.”
“In my family, I’m a first generation firefighter and I volunteer because it’s something my mother instilled in me at a young age,” Atar continued. “I’m passionate about giving back to the community and firefighting is a huge thrill. It offers one of the only public services that directly impacts the community, where the members of the Spring Valley Fire Department tirelessly protect its families, neighbors and friends.”
The Rockland County Fire Training Center opened in 1973 and has been educating personnel in fire prevention, protection and suppression ever since. The mission statement reads: “The Rockland County Office of Fire and Emergency Services provides support and training necessary to the Rockland County Fire Service and all Emergency Responders so that they may provide our citizens with the finest available emergency services.”