Emily Sigmon (NC ’17) on Firefighting and Fire Prevention

Firefighter Sigmon cutting open a roof with a saw for ventilation.

October 6-12 is Fire Prevention Week. “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape” is the theme selected by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) with the intent of motivating everyday citizens to play a part in fire prevention. Nyack alumna and volunteer firefighter Emily Sigmon was a perfect choice for addressing firefighting and fire prevention.

Are you still with Jackson Fire Engine #3?
I am actually a member at Chelsea Hook & Ladder Co. 2 now. I transferred there in November of 2018. I took a “Truck Company” course in the fall at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona and absolutely loved it. So I switched to a company where I could learn and perform more skills.

Have more women joined your company?
Chelsea Hook & Ladder has a new female fighter who joined in August 2019 and is officially allowed to respond to calls and participate in training as of September. I’m excited to have her, and it’s been great helping her learn the ropes.

Over the course of your time as a volunteer firefighter, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned about this career?
I’ve been a volunteer firefighter since February 2018 (20 months). The most important career lesson I’ve learned is to never stop training, never get comfortable and never think you know it all. The moment you think or do those things is the moment your life and the lives of others can be put in danger. Conditions are always changing, and it is a firefighter’s responsibility to keep learning so that they can meet those conditions as prepared as possible.

Emily putting up an aerial ladder which extends to 100 feet.

Describe some of the training that is involved and where it takes place?
In my company, the officers are intentional about us training very regularly. We drill every Tuesday and most Sundays. The location for our training varies and depends on which skills we need to strengthen. Sometimes we throw ladders on buildings around the neighborhood in Nyack to familiarize ourselves more with our area. Sometimes we train at our own firehouse on radio communication or search and rescue. Multiple times a year we train at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona, NY. This center has trained instructors and facilities that enable us to have trainings we are unable to get in other places—this includes practicing cutting roofs, search and rescue under smoke and/or fire conditions and forcible entry.

I am currently taking a class that teaches drivers and tillers of aerial and tower ladders how to properly plan to set up their truck upon arrival at a fire scene to get the most out of our equipment in any scenario.

How has your experience to date affected your decision to become a firefighter?
The more I train and experience, the more I’ve become committed to the service. Firefighting is a passion I never anticipated I’d have, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity and blessing it has been in my life to be a part of this incredible firefighting community and family. I look forward to continuing in this path as long as I am able to and keep encouraging others to support their local firefighters and possibly join us, if they feel the pull!

What are some goals or accomplishments you are targeting as a firefighter? Initially I was an exterior firefighter. Since then, I have completed my training to become an interior firefighter. I completed a training in January 2019 that equipped me to become a member of the Nyack FAST (Firefighter Assist and Survival Team). We are a team called upon by other departments around the county to be prepared to rescue firefighters that may go down or become trapped in a building.

A huge accomplishment for me was becoming the first female tiller in the history of the Nyack Fire Department back in May 2019. (A tiller sits in the back of a tiller truck and steers the rear wheels.) One of my goals when I joined was to challenge myself and learn something new. It’s exciting to see that in accomplishing that goal, I’m making history. I plan to continue on in my training to become a driver next. Who knows what lies ahead after that, but I’m excited for it.

Emily’s top tips on fire prevention and how to respond in a fire.

• Do not leave ovens on or burning candles unattended.
• Keep ovens and fireplaces clean. Remnants of food in an oven that fall or grease that drips can ignite and become a fire hazard.
• Close doors behind you when you leave a room and to your bedroom when you sleep at night. Closed doors significantly delay the spread of fire and can be the difference between life and death.
• Do not panic.
• Call 911 right away.
• Stay low to the ground. You can see best below the smoke.
• Don’t go into hallways or rooms until you feel the door first with the back of your hand to test the temperature. If it’s warm, don’t use that door as an exit.
• Don’t try to take belongings with you. Those things can be replaced; your life can’t.
• Get out of the building as soon as possible to a safe area.
• You should have a plan already in place for you and anyone that lives in your home on where you will meet in a safe location.