Placitas — Apologies are not necessary for two Sandoval County firefighters if they happen come to your home to help on an emergency call.
For firefighter/emergency medical technician Lauren Zabicki and firefighter/paramedic Torrey Raimundi, responding to what someone deems an emergency is why they became first responders.
“It might not be an emergency once we get there,” Zabicki said. “But if someone calls 911, then something happened to them that was of concern, and even it turns out to be nothing, we are happy to help.”
Zabicki and Raimundi are the only dual-female ambulance team in the county.
The decision to help did not come easily for Zabicki or Raimundi, who have only been working together for little over four months.
Both women worked in other fields before choosing to become full-time firefighters and emergency medical personnel.
“I was a teacher for seven years before this,” Zabicki said. “I taught sixth- and eighth-grade science and volunteered in Algodones as a firefighter on my days off.”
Zabicki said she loved teaching, but being a full-time firefighter fit better with her personality.
“This area of Sandoval County has constant changing parts, which in teaching you don’t really get to experience in another profession,” she said. “Here we get a magnitude of different calls on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis.”
Raimundi, who was just voted rookie of the year by a team of her peers, said she isn’t one who craves the spotlight.
“I had no idea this was coming and it’s a great honor, but I am totally brand new to the fire side of this career,” she said.
According to Raimundi, she has six years of experience as a paramedic, but was apprehensive to join the fire department because of her fear of wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus mask.
“I was scared out of my mind for the last six years to even try it,” she said. “I just had this notion in my mind that I could not get past the SCBA mask.”
A few months back, Raimundi said, her husband pushed her to pursue her dream of becoming a firefighter when he began filling out an application for her to get into the position she now loves.
“I decided to take a leap of faith and try it, and I could not be happier,” she said.
Raimundi said she was on high alert the first time she entered a burning building surrounded by live fire, but she enjoyed the experience and chance to hone her skills as a firefighter.
“It was a total adrenaline rush, but I absolutely loved it and that was also the moment I knew this was what I was born to do,” she said.
It’s a continual learning process, she said, but not having a stale routine is one of the perks of being a first responder.
Before the ambulance leaves Fire Station 43, Zabicki and Raimundi do a comprehensive vehicle check and make a log of the condition and whereabouts of each piece of equipment they will have at their disposal for the next shift.
Zabicki pointed to the left side of the truck, where she opens a series of box doors containing different equipment that can be utilized in the event of an accident.
“The driver is considered the engineer,” she said, as she picked up two battery-operated tools used to help free a person from a wrecked car from the box over the back left ambulance tire.
“So this means on scene the driver is responsible for the equipment on this side of the vehicle,” she said, pointing to all of the left-side tool boxes.
Next, Raimundi goes over routine checks on the in-cabin computer to prepare for what may be a busy shift.
“You just never know what’s going to happen or what kind of call you’re going to get,” she said.
Zabicki said first responders also have to be in top physical shape for the job and are tested on their stamina when they begin their training.
Many firefighters have to wear an extra 70 pounds of gear when they enter a burning building, she said, so physical endurance is a must.
Another huge part of the learning process, she said, comes in the form of learning how to work as a team.
“Many of us have type-A personalities and we might even have that lone-wolf mentality,” Zabicki said. “But to succeed here, you need to work as a team for safety and to get the job done right.”
It’s not just fellow firefighters she is referring to, either. Zabicki said many first responders rely on volunteers and people in the community to help them with resources and help keep everyone safe.
“It’s a complete circle,” Zabicki said. “We help the community and the community helps us in return; it’s really satisfying.”