When Julia Motchkavitz first considered joining the Junior Alerts, a group of young firefighters with the Great Neck Alert Fire Company a few years ago, she was a little hesitant.
“I first joined and I was really skeptical at first, because you’re supposed to join when you’re 12 and I took a few months to decipher whether to join or not,” Motchkavitz, 16, said.
But she ultimately took the plunge – and regrets nothing. Now, Julia is the group’s 38th captain, succeeding Seth Newman, and among a group of all women officers that includes 1st Lt. Maya Garfinkel, 2nd Lt. Lauren Murphy, Recording Secretary Abigail Garcia and Financial Secretary Alexandra Kessler.
“I just had such a good time and I met so many new people,” Motchkavitz said, later noting how “everybody has your back” and gets along very well. “It was just a really good experience everyone should have.”
The Alert Fire Company’s Junior Firefighters program is for young adults between 12 and 17. They meet twice a month, learning first aid, CPR, fire safety and participate in firefighting drills and tournaments, while getting them accustomed to how a firehouse operates.
“Many of our juniors rise and join the senior department and they become the regular firefighters,” John Motchkavitz, Julia’s father and a former president of the group, said on Friday.
Julia Motchkavitz’ experience is a bit different than her father John, who was the third captain of the Junior Alerts and a member of the original group that started nearly 40 years ago.
While there had been female captains of the Junior Alerts in the past, John Motchkavitz said this is the “first time in history” that the entire leadership there is female.
“She’s got a really cohesive group,” Motchkavitz said, recalling a recent organizational meeting the new group of officers had the house.
Many of the children in the group also come from outside families historically in the fire service now, he said.
John Motchkavitz said his father and two uncles all joined the firehouse together after World War II, rising through the ranks. It was then natural for him to become involved, he said.
“You realize giving back is a great thing,” Motchkavitz said. “I think that was something my kids always saw and they understand it’s an important thing in the family.”
Julia Motchkavitz said being third generation is something she has thought about. She described it as “almost nostalgic” to be part of the fire service.
“It’s family. It really is family,” Julia said. “Even the members of it, they feel like family.”
As captain, Julia said she looks forward to working with a variety of people: new members who recently joined, older members of the juniors, higher ups in the fire department, and, of course, her team of officers.
Among her responsibilities will be spearheading meetings, assembling a calendar of events, and enforcing and tweaking bylaws.
“I’m looking forward to working with my new officers,” Motchkavitz said. “I feel that even though we’re all different, we all have one mind. We’re all on the same page.”
As for what will happen once she ages out of the Juniors program at 18, she said she hopes to stay involved with the fire department on the emergency medical service side.
“I’ve considered being in EMS because I have minor medical issues,” Motchkavitz said. “I love the community of the fire department. It’s just such a unique community, so I’d love to be a part of that if it’s EMS.”
For those interested in applying, visit the Alert Fire Company website at www.alertfd.org or call (516) 487-1057.