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Answering the Fire Bell Turned Out to Be a Good Career Move


Barbara Held used to spend her workdays behind a desk. She frequently thought about how to escape from the endless hours on the telephone and the mounds of paperwork. So one day nearly a decade ago, she acted on a whim and called the Santa Monica Fire Department. It was a call that changed her life.

Last month, Held was named "Outstanding Young Firefighter of the Year" by the Santa Monica Jaycees at a luncheon at the station.

"It's a nice honor because I represent the department and a team effort," she said modestly. "I couldn't ask for a better career because our whole focus is to help (people)."

Becoming a firefighter proved no easy feat. Held was required to complete a written exam, rigorous physical agility tests and a series of interviews before she became the first female firefighter the department hired.

"I had to prove myself over and over," the Santa Monica resident said. "(The men) had to get used to me."

She settled into her new career and has never looked back.

Held, 39, is assigned to Station No. 5 on Ashland Avenue in Santa Monica. In addition to inspections, training programs and work duties, physical fitness plays an important part of her daily regime. On her days off, she swims for the Santa Monica Master Swim Team. Next month, she will compete in several events at the World Police and Fire Games in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Between workouts and shifts, Held finds time to assist the department's recruitment team, visiting local schools and colleges. She works hard to encourage minorities and young women to explore employment opportunities in the fire service.

Held said changes in technology have made firefighting a more viable career for women.

"Equipment has changed," she said. "Ladders and hoses are lighter, which has enabled more women to enter fire services."


Two Los Angeles residents participated last month in the 1993 Coca-Cola Classic/Wayne Gretzky Hockey Camp in Quebec City, Canada.

Robert Lurvey and Dan Locascio won an all-expenses paid trip and attended the four-day camp with other children from across America.


Steven H. Sommer, chairman and chief executive officer of Somtech Industries Inc., has been elected to the board of directors of Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles.

Sommer, a resident of Pacific Palisades, will assist the nonprofit agency with fund-raising and public relations programs.

He is also a member of the board of directors of the Pacific Palisades-Malibu YMCA.


Brentwood resident Norman Lobsenz won the 1993 Career Achievement Award given by the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Lobsenz, a free-lance writer for more than four decades, has written numerous articles and books. He received the award May 14 in New York City.


The Westside Jewish Community Center has reelected Nancy Bell for a third term as president of the nonprofit center.

Bell, also a member of the executive committee of the Jewish Community Centers Assn., is on the board of directors for the Jewish Federation Council.


The Westside Center for Independent Living awarded its first "Affiliates Award" to community volunteer and supporter Carina Perry.

Perry, an active supporter of the center for four years, was honored May 20 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.


Last month, the Santa Monica Junior Chamber of Commerce installed new members to the board of directors.

Karen Luebke, a teacher at Notre Dame Academy, was named president. Other board members include Tom Sebring, Heather Mirar, Chandler McHugh, Tom Mortensen, Jerry Lenander, Frank Lenander and Mike Flinkman. The members of the board serve in unpaid positions to help run community service projects and learn leadership skills.

Mail items to People Column, Suite 200, 1717 4th St., Santa Monica, Calif. 90401.

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