City Life Magazine sits down with some of Vaughan’s most notable men and women in uniform who put safety and community above all else.
It wasn’t until firefighter Tracy Bradt participated in a FireFit event in 1996 that Jacqueline Rasenberg believed a career in firefighting was possible. “I had never actually seen a female doing it, especially at that time. When I saw her I thought, ‘okay, you know what? I can do this.’”
Rasenberg, 48, was recently promoted to captain at Vaughan Fire and Rescue. She is in charge of Station 73 at 325 Woodbridge Ave., where she has nine firefighters working out of that hall.
Like Bradt, Rasenberg has participated in events that test all firefighters’ skills, winning the Firefighter Combat Challenge nine times on the world stage and eight times at the national level, where she holds the record for fastest Canadian female over 40.
When Vaughan fire prevention inspector Andre Clafton was a child growing up in Yorkshire, England, food was scarce at times in the family household. It was then that his mother would tell him, “Don’t think that there isn’t any person doing worse than us.” From a young age, Clafton learned the principle of being kind and empathetic toward others.
The idea of helping people, in any form, is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a fire prevention inspector, says Clafton. “We’ll come to your house and check your smoke alarms. If you don’t have one or if it’s not working we’ll put in a smoke alarm free of charge because we’ll never leave you unprotected.” Clafton, who is currently in his 13th year of service with Vaughan Fire and Rescue, was awarded by the City of Vaughan with the Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for his work with senior safety in the community.
Clafton’s duty to help also extends to his volunteer work at the Vaughan Food Bank for the past 13 years — a decision undoubtedly influenced by his childhood.
Const. Rob Ruffa is having his picture taken at the York Regional Police station in Maple when a fellow officer walks by and jokingly says, “He’s already a celebrity here. What more does he want?”
Ruffa has expressed a desire to help people since he was a teen. He recalls taking the TTC home from school one day and witnessing a 77-year-old man collapse. He immediately performed CPR on him and saved his life. “I always saw people avoid situations or walk away from them,” says Ruffa. “I was never that person. I always went toward it.”
Ruffa, 36, has been on the force since 2006. He is now a school resource officer for various high schools within Vaughan where he conducts comprehensive presentations about drugs, anti-bullying, “sexting” and social media. “I’m trying to give students life skills so it’s more of a proactive approach, not reactive,” says Ruffa. “It’s amazing.”
For York Region EMS platoon leader Helen Galanis, becoming a paramedic was a wise decision.“The dynamic of it, the compassion and making a difference — it really was just a perfect fit for my personality.”
Since joining the paramedic service in 1998, Galanis says the most rewarding aspect of her job is making a difference in someone’s life. That can be fulfilled even through the smallest of acts, such as “holding that little old lady’s hand on the way to the hospital when you’re doing a transfer.”
Galanis became a platoon leader at York Region EMS in 2014 after working as a road paramedic for 17 years.
In 2007, Galanis and her partner, Paula Woolsey, started The Nanny Blanket Drive, a charitable initiative that donates and distributes blankets at various hospitals within York Region during the Christmas holidays. Since its inception, the drive has received more than one thousand blankets from donations.
The unforeseeable nature of the job is what York Region EMS paramedic Jordan Kachur, 30, finds most exhilarating.
“You could be doing a basic lift assist and then delivering a baby or going to a serious car accident — it’s just totally unpredictable. But it’s exciting and every day it’s just totally new.”
Kachur, an eleven-year veteran and current captain with York EMS, says turning a patient’s negative experience into a positive one is the most gratifying part of his career.
“It might just be another shift to us, but that day, that call, could be the worst day of someone else’s life, and to be able to make an impact is something I don’t think a lot of people could say that’s what their job entails.”
In 2014, Kachur received the Compassionate Care Award for setting extraordinary examples of kindness and understanding in his daily duties.
Photos By Sal Pasqua