When Firefighter/Paramedic Benjamin Arnold joined the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 2006, he had no way of knowing his chosen profession would one day take him 7,459 miles away from home.
Born and raised in Southern California, Arnold became a firefighter for the same reasons many of his peers do: the camaraderie, the chance to work with his hands, and the opportunity to help other people.
What sets Arnold apart, however, is his work with the Emergency Volunteers Project (EVP), an Israel-based nonprofit that trains and certifies volunteer teams to deploy to Israel during crises. Since its inception in 2009, EVP has trained more than 950 emergency volunteers and professional first-responders throughout the USA and Israel.
Arnold first became involved with the organization through his uncle, a fire chief in Florida. Aware of Arnold’s involvement with his church, he saw an ideal opportunity for Arnold to combine his desire to help others with his love of travel.
Fighting fires in Israel requires different techniques than fighting them in the US. Israeli structures are built to withstand bombings, which means while their contents may burn, the buildings themselves rarely do. To prepare for this scenario, Arnold began his involvement with EVP at a training session in Florida. These trainings are now held once a year at the Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic, California. Firefighters pay out of their own pockets to undergo adequate preparation – just another example of their commitment to helping the global community.
Arnold deployed to Israel for the first time in the summer of 2014 as part of Operation Protective Edge, where separate teams of firefighters and medical personnel travelled to Israel to provide much needed support and relief services. His first 18 days in Israel were a huge “eye opener and learning lesson” for him. Assigned to a fire station on Israel’s border, Arnold experienced the notorious conflict first-hand. He arrived back to the US with a newfound understanding of the region and its people, which he then shared with his peers. It was then that he developed EVP’s West Coast Chapter and recruited more LAFD volunteers.
Today, Arnold continues to work as EVP’s West Coast Chapter Division Leader. In November of last year, he deployed to Israel for ten days to assist with the 1,773 fires that were sweeping through the small country.
When he’s not working with EVP, Firefighter/Paramedic Benjamin Arnold is assigned to Fire Station 98, in Pacoima, where he has spent the last four years. He is also a member of the Swift Water Rescue Team, CATF1 FEMA Team, and a USAR Instructor for the LAFD. For Arnold, working with the LAFD has allowed a passionate first-responder the opportunity to serve his community as well as the world beyond.