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Monday, April 27, 2015
Suzanne Torborg, left, and Amber LauKaitis are with Viglilant Engine Co. No. 1
News
In the pink: Women welcomed into East Rockaway Fire Department
Mary Malloy/Herald
The women don the same gear as the men do when answering calls.

Asked what she and fellow firefighter Suzanne Torborg bring to the East Rockaway Fire Department, Amber LauKaitis, one of only two women in the department who fight fires and answer emergency calls, jokingly answered, “Pink!’ referring to their specially ordered T-shirts and accessories.

But the two women know they bring a lot more than a color to the 150-member department. They’ve cracked the “boys’ club” code — and discovered that it wasn’t that difficult after all.

“The department welcomed me with open arms,” said Torborg, 24, who teaches science part-time and in the after-school program at East Rockaway High School, her alma mater, and has been a firefighter for almost seven years. “They were all great, and told me that they were there if I ever needed anything. It wasn’t scary at all, and I never felt uncomfortable.”

Torborg acknowledged that it didn’t hurt that both her father and her brother, both named Gene Torborg, are ERFD firefighters. Her brother is one of the chiefs of the department.

“On my 18th birthday, my brother showed up with a Fire Department application and said I should try it,” Suzanne said. “My father said I could quit anytime if I didn’t like it.” She tried it, she said, “and I loved it!”

Once a newcomer is accepted into the department, there is a probationary period, courses to take and six months of hands-on training. Torborg’s first experience with a real fire was on Main Street, she recalled, and she and the other firefighters had to break through a wall.

“All I saw was flames coming toward my head,” she said. “It might not have been too bad, but it seemed it to me at the time. And I saved a cat, so it was a memorable experience.”

LauKaitis, 22, also comes from a family of community service volunteers. Her mother, Diane LauKaitis, is the deputy inspector of the Nassau County Auxiliary Police and a member of the East Rockaway Auxiliary Police Department. Her father, Don, is an officer in the department. Her older brother, Eric, works alongside her in the Fire Department and is also an EMT, having joined two months before she did, almost three years ago.

“I wanted to go a different route, but it’s all about giving back,” Amber said. During the day she works at the Fantasy theater in Rockville Centre.

Comments

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cfmansfield

Wonderful article. Hopefully these two inspire others.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | Report this
GrGrandma

How can I not be proud of my Granddaughter Amber..and always will be!

Thursday, December 19, 2013 | Report this
markmcd35

Growing up I got to watch my grandfather, father and uncles running to fire calls at the Main St. firehouse. My family lived to be volunteers. But when I turned 18 it was not to be the case for me, since I was a woman.

I went on to become other things but have always felt that I would have been the first in line on my 18th birthday to get sworn in as a firefighter by my father, an ex-chief. You see, our family has it in our blood. It is now almost 50 years since my 18th birthday, and I salute my niece for having the guts to go for it and to succeed, and I want to thank the "boys' club" for accepting her as they have.

Terry Torborg McDonagh

Sunday, December 22, 2013 | Report this
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