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May 2019 Firefighter of the Month: Firefighter / Paramedic Cynthia Sato

LAFD Metropolitan Fire Communications Dispatch Center, Downtown Los Angeles

When Firefighter Cynthia Sato finishes her work as a 911 call dispatcher for the day she steps into her other role with the LAFD; being a Search and Rescue K-9 handler.

“Having a K-9 is kind of like having a kid and a roommate at the same time,” Sato said. “She’s an employee of the department just like me, but also my best friend.”

Sato’s interest in the LAFD began when she was a 17-year-old explorer (now called cadets). After pretending to be a victim during a K-9 search and rescue simulation as part of her cadet post, her desire to become a handler immediately sparked. Sato joined the LAFD in 2006 and worked at numerous fire stations before becoming a certified paramedic. Later, she pursued her ultimate desire and was paired with “Roxie,” her current K-9 partner, by the Search Dog Foundation.

Sato and Roxie have been deployed three times, with the most recent being to the Montecito mudslides in early 2018. During their six-day deployment, Roxie searched through the carnage looking for anyone who could be trapped in the mud, damaged structures and other debris.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see anything like that,” Sato said. “Deployments like that are what we train for. Seeing Roxie put that training into action was rewarding.”

Her desire to broaden her skills into areas such as being a K-9 handler also led Sato to her current position as a 911 call dispatcher. She handles emergency calls that range from a simple headache to a patient not breathing. As both a firefighter and paramedic, Sato uses her experience to quickly diagnose a situation and deploy the best resources to a caller’s aid.

Sato is excited to continue her partnership with Roxie. She is also in the process of joining the LAFD’s Arson/Counter Terrorism Section as an Arson Investigator.