Captain Zahra Harvey named Company Officer of the Year

CarolinaFireJournal -

01/23/2014 -

Captain Zahra Harvey of the Fayetteville, N.C. Fire/Emergency Management Department has been named “FireRescue” magazine’s Company Officer of the Year for 2013. The award, sponsored by American Military University, was presented last year at the Fire-Rescue International conference in Chicago.

“FireRescue” magazine Editor-in-Chief Tim Sendelbach is proud to recognize Captain Harvey as this year’s recipient for her exemplary leadership and dedication to the professional development of those who serve under her command. “Captain Harvey leads from the front, maintains a strong commitment to firefighter fitness, stands firm on the standards of fireground safety, and continuously works to develop the members of her crew,” he said. “She is a fitting example of what it takes to be an effective company officer.”


Captain Zahra Harvey

Captain Harvey began her career with the Fayetteville Fire/Emergency Management Department in 1997. She was promoted to captain in 2005. Captain Harvey is known for her high level of performance expectations even in the most mundane station duties, but is respected for being fair and supportive of her crew. She frequently trains with her crew on days that would be considered “down days” anywhere else. The payoff is the high level of proficiency her crews demonstrate on firegrounds and rescues. Captain Harvey has very low turnover in her crews, routinely only losing personnel to promotions and career advancement. Postings under her command are sought after department wide. Her experience and knowledge of firefighting and of the department’s procedures and policies are frequently called upon by members of her crew and the department during promotional testing. It is not uncommon for the dinner table at the station to be the site of scenario practices by on and off duty personnel in preparation for the testing. Many who have served with Captain Harvey and have advanced in the ranks give her full measure of credit for her help.

Captain Harvey is a strong proponent of both the Rapid Intervention program and also in firefighter fitness initiatives. She has been a RIT instructor since inception of the program and her reputation as a tough instructor in the class often precedes her into the new recruit academies of the Fayetteville Fire Department. She has been on the RIT instruction team since it was added to the academy’s course list. She advocates websites such as Vent, Enter, Search as sources for continuing education for active firefighters. Captain Harvey is also a lead Peer Fitness Trainer and coordinates the department’s annual fitness testing and firefighter fitness programs. She also persuaded the chiefs of the department to allow her to launch and coordinate two programs: first was a department sponsored Biggest Loser competition, in which firefighters are given motivation to lose weight and improve fitness and second is a Fittest Firefighter competition where firefighters in various age brackets compete in strength and endurance events. The chiefs of the department donated prizes for both events. She is no slouch physically either, as she is an accomplished aerialist with her performance group, Airborne Aerials, as well as a rigger for events at the Crown Coliseum.

Captain Harvey started volunteering in 1996 after witnessing firefighters turn chaos into order at a difficult extrication scene. An 18-wheeler struck a passenger car, and the rig overturned. “The driver was entrapped and the product he was carrying spilled onto the roadway,” Harvey recalls. “I sat in my car and watched in amazement as the fire crews arrived, extricated and life-flighted him, stopped the leak, handled traffic, etc. I was hooked. I went to the first fire station I could find and asked for an application.”

Captain Harvey is also a strong advocate for the Fayetteville Fire Department Honor Guard and similar programs and also participates with the Silent Heroes, a local group of motorcycle enthusiasts who have committed their time to service and to honoring fallen firefighters from around the region, participating in funerals, memorials, and providing family support.

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Capt. Zahra Harvey

Captain Harvey is currently serving at Station 5 in Fayetteville, which holds the distinction of being the busiest station in the city. She has been in that post for over four years. The station houses Engine 5 and Squad 5, a crew of six, and is tasked with fire, rescue and airport services.
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