Nuriel Avitan, Yechiel Cohen, Shmuel Aryeh, Yaakov Mazuz, Daniel Souisa and Avi Amar, all volunteer as EMTs with United Hatzalah. Last Tuesday the six volunteers all met during a building fire that erupted in the electrical wiring of an apartment building in Ashdod.

Electrical wiring that caused the building fire in Ashdod
Electrical wiring that caused the building fire in Ashdod

“I was on my way to drop off a package at my parents’ house when I received a call from our dispatch center alerting me to the building fire one street away. Due to my proximity, I was able to arrive in less than 30 seconds,” said Avitan who was the first to arrive on the scene. He was followed by Yechiel Cohen who leads the Ashdod team of responders.


Avitan and Cohen ran to the entrance to ascertain the situation and begin alerting the residents as the Fire department was still en route. Avitan saw a man in the lobby who shouted to him, “The circuit breaker upstairs is on fire!” Avitan ran into the building and up the stairs and saw the circuit breaker engulfed in flames causing large amounts of smoke to spill into the hallways. Thankfully, the fire had not yet spread to any of the residential units. Confused people entered the hallway as the dedicated EMTs directed them to exit the building. One of the residents told the EMTs that the nearest fire extinguisher was one floor up.


One EMT ran up to the next floor, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and ran back down. He handed the extinguisher to Avitan while another volunteer carefully opened the circuit breaker door from an angle that allowed him to avoid breathing in the toxic smoke. Avitan aimed the nozzle at the base of the fire and squeezed the handle. The fire-suppressant chemicals doused the flames and the fire was soon extinguished. In the meantime, the other EMTs had been knocking on doors and asking the residents to leave the building.

Ashdod fire 1

Due to the quick response, the fire didn’t have time to spread and the damage was limited. All of the residents had been evacuated quickly and there were no injuries sustained. “The residents of the upper floors had headed out onto their balcony and closed the door so that they would not breathe in the smoke,” said Avitan.  After the fire department crews arrived they thanked the EMTs for arriving so quickly and extinguishing the fire. “Had the fire burned longer, the building and its occupants would be in a much worse situation,” they told Avitan.
“We worked together as a unit, each of us coming from a different location but arriving shortly one after another. Working together like that and providing help to those in need is what we are trained to do,” said Avitan. “Each day I surprise myself at how quickly I and other volunteers can respond to emergencies thanks to the ambucycle and community-based responder model that United Hatzalah uses. These tools allow us to respond faster and that saves lives.”