(November 15, 2018 / JNS) A group of 10 firefighters from Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson, New Jersey and Florida arrived in Israel on Sunday as part of an Emergency Volunteers Project team to volunteer at fire-service stations in the south and other locations.
This is the latest of similar deployments organized and implemented by the Emergency Volunteers Project, which trains and brings emergency personnel to Israel during crisis and normality.
In the past, EVP has brought fire and medical teams to work with Israel’s emergency services during fires that spread across Israel during 2016, as well as a team of firefighters that deployed to southern Israel to assist firefighters battling the arson attacks launched through incendiary devices sent the past seven months from Hamas in Gaza.
This latest team will be in Israel for just one week and will be working with Israeli fire crews, answering calls with them and providing much-needed help to exhausted firefighters and people in need.
Soon after landing, the latest round of violence in the south erupted with more than 450 missiles from Gaza aimed indiscriminately at Israeli towns and villages over the border. Much damage was caused, in addition to one fatality and many wounded. The EVP team was deployed, among other locations, to Beersheva; it will also be sent to stations closer to the Gaza Strip to reinforce Israeli fire crews.
“Our firefighters began their deployment to Southern Israel just hours before the latest round of violence in Gaza,” said Eitan Charnoff, Director of Emergency Deployment and EVP spokesperson. “This is a clear demonstration that whenever Israel is in need, EVP is the first on the ground.”
Marcela Hammond, a firefighter from Tucson, said “the program is unlike anything in the world. To be able to work with our brothers and sisters firefighters, and help the State of Israel, is a real privilege.”
“We have integrated with the Israeli crews and are fully part of the team.”
For more than a decade, EVP has been recruiting and training professional firefighters and medical personnel to operate with Israel’s emergency services and deploy when needed. It has organized 60-plus training programs in the United States and in Israel, and has built up a dedicated force of people ready to answer the call whenever it comes.
It also recruits and trains community first responders to provide vital assistance in maintaining shelters and emergency-supply depots and to operate emergency water-distribution centers for the Israeli Water Authority.
‘Our mission is to be ready’
Scott Goldstein, an American firefighter and EVP’s U.S. director of training, said “today is day two of a week-long deployment, bringing me back to the Petach Tikvah station for the fourth time in as many years. Right now, part of our crew is running a call after a morning of hazardous-materials drill. It is good to be with old friends and comrades, and to create new relationships. We have integrated with the Israeli crews and are fully part of the team.”
This deployment and others have been made possible through the generosity of EVP’s supporters, particularly the Jewish Federations of North America.
Adi Zahavi, the project’s CEO, and himself a paramedic and EMT who has experienced dozens of terror incidents in Jerusalem and other areas over the years, notes that “we have an additional 40 [firefighters] on standby if the security situation requires it.”
Throughout the recent outbreak of violence in the south of Israel, EVP volunteers have been working alongside their Israel brothers since March, working together to protect the lives and property of the area’s citizens. Rather than sending aid in the form of supplies, it sends trained emergency personnel who are dedicated to the safety of Israel—who are part of an international [partnership] of firefighters that knows no boundaries and who will do all in their power to help those in danger.
“Our mission is to be ready whenever we are called on to help,” said Zahavi. “Our firefighters, medical personnel and community responders are willing to step on a plane and come to Israel’s aid at the drop of a hat. One of our last emergency deployments was on the night of Thanksgiving. We contacted firefighters from across the States, and without a moment’s hesitation they left their families at the holiday table to fly to Israel. This is true dedication—a true love for the people of Israel.”