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The head of the San Jose battalion is under fire for his career

San Jose Fire Battalion Chief Patrick Chung was just entering his senior year of high school in 2001 when the 9/11 attacks shaped his career. Saratoga High School student Ryan Lin interviewed Chung about his career as a firefighter. (Courtesy photo)

Patrick Chung was just starting his senior year of high school in 2001 when the 9/11 attacks shaped his career.

Chung, now the battalion chief of the San Jose Fire Department, said he had always been interested in the fire service, but began to think more about it after seeing the “incredibly stoic and honorable” actions of firefighters after the attacks.

“It was a really impactful event that happened at a time in my life where you’re a little bit more impressed,” he added.

Chung has made an impression in his 16 years with the San Jose Fire Department, moving from firefighter/EMT to fire captain to his role as EMS battalion chief, with any responsibilities within the department related to emergency medical responsibility.

Chung’s achievements are also significant a statistical analysis According to the job search website Zippia, only 1.8% of the roughly 138,819 firefighters working in the United States last September were of Asian descent.

locally, Suwanna Kerdkaew She made headlines last year when she became Santa Clara County’s first female, Asian-American and LGBT fire chief.

Chung was appointed battalion chief before the pandemic began, which presented unique challenges. His first meeting as battalion chief was with San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien, Jr. on Zoom.

“You’re trying to keep this department moving forward so that they can respond to emergencies and provide a service to the public while you’re trying to figure out how we connect. [personnel] holes.” Chung said.

In addition to managing emergency personnel, Chung was responsible for launching the department’s drone program in the fall of 2020. Drones can be deployed from different fire stations and sent to incidents to survey the situation. They provide real-time information to operational commands to help determine the type of emergency and potential resources needed. Drones can also fly around a burning building to give the incident commander a better view of the situation.

“You’re saving your resources for the next emergency,” Chung said. “It’s making the department more efficient in what we do.”

For Chung, the most rewarding thing about being a firefighter is that no matter the situation, he and his crew can often make a difference.

It refers to the April 2022 five-alarm fire that destroyed a Home Depot on Blossom Hill Road in San Jose and threatened many nearby homes.

“Big embers the size of dinner plates were falling onto the roofs,” Chung recalled. “We installed the main air currents between the Home Depot and the residences behind it. Engine companies went into backyards with hose lines to put out burning fences, and crews even scaled buildings to put out roof fires.

“It was a huge effort by a small group of companies, but in the end, these companies were able to preserve and protect an entire neighborhood.”

Chung attended UCLA’s EMT program and the fire academy at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. He worked for Cal Fire for a season before joining the San Jose Fire Department.

“The excitement and fun of this job is that you never know what you’re going to see when you show up for your shift,” he said.

As for the tough calls, Chung said the camaraderie among her peers has helped her overcome traumatic incidents. “It makes you appreciate life a little more, and it also makes you see the fragile nature of life. He appreciates you.

“You have to balance all of that with trying to serve the greater good, trying to be a good service member for your community and trying to help people’s lives when they need it most,” he said, adding that he calls. its crews are “something to stand for and something to be proud of” who are able to save lives.

Ryan Lin is a senior at Saratoga High School and a “passionate young reporter,” according to his mentor, Drew Casey.

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