San Jose battalion chief is fired up about his career

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

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

“That was a really impactful event that happened during a time period of my life where you’re a little more impressionable,” 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 current role as the EMS battalion chief, with responsibility for anything in the department that relates to emergency medical response.

Chung’s accomplishments are also significant in light of a statistical analysis by job search website Zippia that shows only 1.8% of the approximately 138,819 firefighters employed in the United States as of last September were of Asian descent.

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

Chung was promoted to battalion chief just prior to the beginning of the pandemic, which brought unique challenges. His first meeting as a battalion chief with San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien, Jr. was on Zoom.

“You’re trying to keep this department afloat so that they can respond to emergencies and provide a service to the public while you’re also trying to figure out how we plug [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. The drones can be deployed from different fire stations and sent to incidents to scan the situation. They provide real-time information to operational commands to assist in determining the type of emergency and possible resources required. The drones can also fly around a burning building to give the incident commander a greater perspective on the situation.

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

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

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

“Large embers the size of dinner plates were falling on roofs,” Chung recalled. “We established aerial master streams in between Home Depot and the residences behind it. Engine companies made access into the backyards with hose lines to extinguish burning fences, and crews also laddered buildings to extinguish roof fires.

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

Chung did his training  in UCLA’s EMT program and at Allan Hancock College’s fire academy in Santa Maria. He worked for Cal Fire for one season before joining the San Jose Fire …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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