It takes a certain boldness and toughness to work as a firefighter in any major city. After years of excruciating mental and physical training, the men and women who professionally fight fires earn the upmost respect from their peers (and here in Rochester, a starting salary of $40,000 and a 20-year pension).
Volunteer firefighters, however, often do plenty of serious work that goes unnoticed and underappreciated.
However, this February, the Rochester Fire Department made sure to publicly thank, recognize, and honor a Nepalese immigrant who serves the city as a proud volunteer firefighter.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, Bala Chauwan, the 20-year-old Nepalese volunteer firefighter, is currently enrolled in Monroe Community College’s Fire Protection Technology Program. Chauwan’s dream is to become a firefighter for the Rochester Police Department.
His dream took a giant step forward this year, as he was awarded the Harry B. Austin Protective of the Year Award.
Chauwan, who has been here for about six years, gives 12 hours of his week for volunteer work, working overnight shifts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and helping provide various services for both the Rochester Fire Department and for families who are in need.
Chauwan and the other members of the Protectives volunteer program tend to families impacted by house fires, while also setting up emergency lighting at scenes, recovering possessions, and providing proper ventilation in specific areas. Even bathrooms with ceiling heights over eight feet require routine ventilation, but during a fire, buildings will require extreme ventilation. When firefighters are fighting a blaze, improvised ventilation can literally save lives.
Volunteers like Chauwan help expel trapped head and smoke from the building, which makes the fire easier to fight and helps firefighters enter the building to rescue anyone stuck inside.
“[Chauwan’s] only been in the company a year, but we wouldn’t trade him for anybody on Friday nights,” said Mark Kirchgessner, chief of the Rochester Fire Department Protectives, who has been with the program for 33 years.
Yet, for his part, the modest Chauwan said that his 12-hour shifts are “no big deal.”
“You’re serving your community, so it’s basically nothing. Twelve hours, you can afford it,” he said.