Arts & Life, Features

Students volunteer at Long Beach Search and Rescue program

Student volunteers a part of Long Beach Search and Rescue provide additional help to firefighters and police officers at police and fire call-outs. Recently, they helped respond to the Long Beach shooting on Oct. 29 that left three dead.

“The shooter was still out there, where we were, so [LBSAR] had to stay inside,” said volunteer Karla Gonzalez, a first-year criminal justice major. “It was just a cool experience for me. Most people would be scared. I was nervous, but it was just so cool to me.”

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A member of the Long Beach Search and Rescue program practices roof ventilation.

Photo courtesy of LBSAR

Less than two miles from Long Beach State is the David Rosa Regional Training Center, where LBSAR members train on Tuesday nights. The organization is a 57-year-old Boy Scouts of America explorer post that recruits volunteers ages 15 to 18 interested in pursuing jobs in public safety like firefighting, law enforcement or the military. Members are allowed to stay throughout college.

Gonzalez, Will Kennedy, John Zabukovec and Madison Quintana are all members of LBSAR as well as students at CSULB.

Gonzalez has been a member of LBSAR for one year. As a criminal justice major, she is pursuing a career as either a police officer or a detective.

“[Law enforcement] is just something that’s always interested me since I was a little kid,” Gonzalez said. “I would always watch Law & Order [and] Criminal Minds. I know [real life] is not like the TV shows, but it’s just something that interested me, and I will be the first in my family to go into law enforcement.”

Gonzalez and LBSAR helped with traffic control and parking at the Bernie Sanders rally held at Long Beach City College in August.

“It makes me feel powerful in a way [and] courageous because not a lot of females go into law enforcement,” Gonzalez said. 

Kennedy, a second-year business marketing major, has been a member of LBSAR for two years and was recently promoted as assistant quartermaster. He joined the program to gain hands-on skills in public safety. 

“I’ve wanted to be a firefighter ever since I was little because I’ve had a lot of run-ins with fire,” Kennedy said. “When I was 3 years old [I was] getting picked up in ambulances and [I was] around firefighters a lot because I was always getting hurt and my neighbor was a fire chief at station 19.” 

Kennedy is a nationally registered EMT and works part-time at an after school daycare. He attends CSULB full-time pursuing a business marketing degree because of its “versatility and feasibility for human interaction.”

“A person having the worst day of their life is relieved to see [a firefighter],” Kennedy said. “They’re extremely happy because they see you [who is] the one that’s going to help [them] and make [their] terrible day as the best it could be. [Firefighters] just want to help. That’s what a firefighter is to me.”

Kennedy said LBSAR has taught him how to use tools like rotary saws, chainsaws, rubbish hooks, flat head axes and forcible entry halligan bars. 

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Copy of William Kennedy (left) and John Zabukovec gaining more search and rescue experience as they got to sit in the front seats of a helicopter.

Photo courtesy of Antonio Jorgensen

Zabukovec, a first-year business marketing major, has been a member of LBSAR for about two and a half years. He has worked as a pool lifeguard in the past, and he wants to practice a range of fields, including firefighting, law enforcement, business or military in the future. His dream is to be a professional auto racer.

“[But] as of now, I’m kinda just trying to figure out who I am as a person and what I want to do,” Zabukovec said.

He recently traveled to the Woosley fire in Malibu to watch first-hand how a fire department handles large scale disasters.

Zabukovec was excited to apply to LBSAR, having had a prior interest in firefighting. But now, he said he is disappointed in the program due to being treated poorly by some individuals.

“I just want to see a potential promotion [and] get more involved in the [LBSAR] unit,” Zabukovec said. “I want to help people figure out who they are and to motivate young people to be the most successful [and] the best person they can be.”

Quintana has been a member of LBSAR for one year. She had initially planned on studying mechanical engineering but decided on firefighting during her senior year of high school. She was even part of the Los Angeles Fire Department Girls Camp.

“I joined Search and Rescue because I want to be a firefighter,” Quintana said. “The [LBSAR] recruit academy is intense. They train you [like] the Marines or the Army. They yell at you [and] they push you through everything.” 

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Madison Quintana (left) and Karla Gonzalez in fire gear for a search and rescue practice.

Photo courtesy of Madison Quintana

Quintana is studying criminal justice because she thought emergency management fell under the major, but later on, she found out that it was a graduate program. She stuck with the major because she felt that it would be a good backup plan in the case of a work injury. 

“I love helping people,” Quintana said. “I just want to be there for someone. I want to make people’s day and I think firefighting is pretty cool.”

She said she does not feel intimidated pursuing a male-dominated career, especially having grown up with only brothers. To her, it is empowering to become a firefighter. 

“Yeah, I’m a female,” Quintana said. “I’m going to come out here and steal a man’s job because we can do [the job] just as equal.” 

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