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Celebrating Two Special Volunteer Firefighters on the Public Safety Team

Architects who also dedicate time to volunteering with local fire departments support the key vision of FGMA: We Build Community 


FGMA celebrates National Volunteer Month by spotlighting the time dedicated to volunteering throughout the firm. While giving back to the community every day is part of FGMA’s DNA, this April the firm celebrates two very special members of the team who volunteer with their local fire departments: Angelina Gonzalez and Michael Seppala.


Their volunteering provides a unique perspective for FGMA’s public safety team that is taken from personal experience to inform the firm’s design approach. This combination of grassroots knowledge and active engagement with leaders and members of the fire services is part of what makes FGMA a respected national thought leader in the design of fire and rescue facilities. 



Passion Project: Angelina Gonzalez  

An architect in the Reston, Virginia office, Angelina Gonzalez is an integral part of the public safety design team, currently working on Arlington County Fire Station 8 and Philomont Fire and Rescue Station. As a Nationally Certified EMT and volunteer with the Fair Oaks Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, Angelina committed to passing Firefighter I/II classes.


Last year, she participated in the first-ever Women’s Weekend at the National Fire Academy, hosted by the U.S. Fire Administration in partnership with Women in Fire, as well as a fire investigation first responder course. This course includes insights into ways to prevent fires through building codes and addressing fire prevention for both occupied and maintained buildings as well as abandoned ones. Angelina recommends this course for professionals in the architecture industry to better understand the repercussions of design decisions. Last month marked her graduation from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Training Academy. 


 “The best part about this volunteer opportunity is that no matter how small," says Angelina Gonzalez, "you’re able to help someone on what could be the worst day of their life and make a big impact.”


Volunteer Q&A: Angelina Gonzalez  


FGMA: How many years have you been with FGMA? 

Angelina Gonzalez (AG): I started at FGMA in March 2023. 


FGMA: How long have you been a volunteer / with what organization? 

AG: I joined the Fair Oaks Fire & Rescue Department in February of 2022.  


FGMA: Why did you start volunteering with the fire department? 

AG: I was working remote and was interested in volunteering somewhere. I saw a sign by a local fire station mentioning they were looking for volunteers, so I checked out the ones closest to where I lived and joined.  


FGMA: What got you interested in firefighting? 

AG: I’ve always been interested in firefighting, but never knew you could volunteer and become one without it being your career. Once I learned that I could, I immediately joined.  


FGMA: What does your volunteering mean to you? 

AG: Volunteering, to me, means to give back to the community. The best part about this volunteer opportunity is that no matter how small, you are able to help someone on what could be the worst day of their life and make a big impact. I also enjoy understanding the inner workings of the dispatch system and being better prepared for when a disaster or major event happens. It allows me to be able to help the community when a major disaster or really bad weather happens and help support local responders. 





























Decades of Dedication: Michael Seppala 

Michael Seppala has been on the FGMA team for 13 years in the Reston, Virginia office and his public safety design work includes Prince William County Fire Station 22, City of Summit Fire Headquarters and Andover Fire Station. His 20 years of experience volunteering on rescue squads has brought him to the rank of lieutenant, now capable of performing vehicle extrication and rope rescues. Michael’s extensive design experience in public safety combined with his extensive volunteer experience allows him to better inform design fire facilities design at FGMA. 


"Many kids want to be a firefighter when they grow up – some of us just never grow out of it." - Michael Seppala


Volunteer Q&A: Michael Seppala 


FGMA: How many years have you been with FGMA? 

Michael Seppala (MS): I’ve been on the FGMA team for 13 years. 


FGMA: How long have you been a volunteer / with what organization? 

MS: I’ve been volunteering for 20 years. 3 years with the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad and 17 years with Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad within in the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System.   


FGMA: Why did you start volunteering with the fire department? 

MS: My county had one central location for all the high school vocational classes. One year I was taking a class for Architectural Drafting, and I saw people taking an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course. So, the next year I took the EMT course for my science credit because it seemed like it would be more fun than taking biology. In college, I joined so I could start using my training. 


FGMA: What got you interested in firefighting? 

MS: Many kids want to be a firefighter when they grow up – some of us just never grow out of it. 


FGMA: What does your volunteering mean to you? 

MS: Most people join for the excitement, to help people or to give back to the community and you get to do all of that but you stay for the people. I’m friends with people I never would’ve crossed paths with because we have nothing in common except volunteering. 

























FGMA’s Public Safety Practice 

FGMA offers unparalleled public safety expertise. The public safety practice is continually expanding its expertise by researching trends and innovations, networking with chiefs, touring stations nationwide and abroad. 


Leaders like Brian Wright, Director of Municipal and Recreation, and Christopher Kehde, Managing Director of the FGMA Reston office and a public safety design expert, are both consistently searching for new and better ways to meet the ever-changing demands of the public safety industry and bring clients a unique understanding of the world of public safety as it exists today and will become tomorrow. Additionally, the entire public safety staff has participated in all-day ride-alongs with firefighters and police officers. 


The entire public safety design team spends considerable time in police and fire stations observing both interactions and operational flow, so that it can bring a targeted focus to designs that yield better functionality, promote health and wellness, increase job satisfaction and improve response rates.  


View FGMA’s full public safety design portfolio here

 

 

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