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Tappan Zee High School senior Celene Stewart was in the middle of an economics class when she got the text message: “Signal 13.”
The Ladies Auxiliary of the Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Company, of which she is a member, was needed to help firefighters who were battling a blaze on the Clausland Mountain in Orangeburg.
Stewart, 17, raced into high gear as soon as the bell rang. It was the first emergency, or “Signal 13” that she’d ever been called to during a year and a half volunteering in the Auxiliary. (Typically the Ladies Auxiliary organizes parties and events, supports firefighters and works to encourage community involvement in the organization.)
Stewart and other auxiliary members grabbed their safety gear and headed to the scene, where a roaring fire was eating up acres of dry and brittle brush on the mountain. Their job for the next several hours was to keep the firefighters hydrated and fed as they worked in shifts to put out the smoky fire.
Firefighters from Westchester, Bergen and Orange counties joined Rockland volunteers to battle the fire. Ultimately, it burned hundreds of acres on Clausland Mountain over about four days in late November. Several firefighters suffered minor injuries.
Stewart and her peers were recognized for their efforts by the South Orangetown Board of Education shortly after the fire .
The Blauvelt Ladies Auxiliary is just one organization to which Stewart lends her time. She also organizes school blood drives, serves food at a Nyack soup kitchen with the Leo club and participated in a “midnight run” to deliver clothing to individuals at a homeless shelter in Manhattan.
Stewart takes Advanced Placement psychology and is enrolled in a senior seminar internship in
an elementary classroom at South Orangetown. In addition to her full course load, she also has a part-time job.
Stewart was honored by the Orangetown Rotary Club as the February Student of the Month. The club recognizes students who demonstrate a commitment to community service and strong
Check out the video, above, of Stewart describing her role during the fire and her future career aspirations.