Ulizes Sanchez: A Firefighter in His Dream Station
July 6, 2017
When he was 13 years old, Ulizes Sanchez knocked on the door of Fire Station 7 in Barrio Logan in hopes that they would help him pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter, but he was too young.
Four years later, Sanchez knocked on that same door and took the first step to achieving a lifelong goal of serving the community he grew up in.
Firefighter Josh Clark invited him to attend the cadet program and Sanchez, somewhat unfamiliar as a first generation firefighter, showed up in a t-shirt, blue jeans and white Puma shoes.
He quickly realized the other cadets were in Dickies and steel toe boots. Sanchez then felt out of place and wondered what he was doing there, but he did not give up.
Sanchez, 26, is a firefighter at Fire Station 7 in Barrio Logan, a station he refers to as his “dream station.”
“My favorite part about my job is that when I come here it doesn’t feel like a job,” he said.
Sanchez was raised with his two older siblings in Barrio Logan by a single mom who worked several jobs to put her children through school.
He knew he wanted to pursue this career after two significant moments. The first was when he was young and watched a group of firefighters go into a building that was fully engulfed in flames and the second when he saw firefighters helping a man who had hit his head.
He joined the cadet program at the age of 17 and was hired three years ago as a firefighter for the Barrio Logan station.
Sanchez earned his associate’s degree in fire science from Miramar College and worked several jobs to help pay for school.
He is also a certified Emergency Medical Technician and working to be a paramedic.
Sanchez said that his mom would drop him off at the cadet training and he would have to take the bus back home until one of his friends in the program offered to drive him. He was touched by the fact that a stranger was kind enough to take him home, he said.
“It really is a brotherhood,” Sanchez said. “[There] is that strong sense of family within the Fire Department.”
There is no such thing as an average day for the firefighters of Fire Station 7, but Sanchez said they typically arrive at 7 a.m., inspect their equipment, workout, clean the station, practice drills and have “family time” during lunch and dinner.
But aside from their daily duties, Sanchez and his fellow firefighters at Fire Station 7 have to be ready to help the community of Barrio Logan and downtown San Diego at all times.
“As a firefighter you find out that there’s a solution to every problem,” Sanchez said. “The public expects that when they call 911 you can do and know everything, which is impossible but we give it a shot.”
Even on his days off, Sanchez is thinking about work or volunteering. Sanchez currently sits as secretary of Bomberos de San Diego, a nonprofit organization that helps the lower income communities, gives scholarships, hosts events and offers drill training to fire departments in Mexico.
He said it is humbling to work with other stations and it is great meeting the students who receive the scholarships from Bomberos de San Diego.
Sanchez said it would have been easy to think that if he knocked on the door of the fire station he would have been turned away but that is not what happened.
He said he hung on to the idea of him being a firefighter and that was how he was able to stick to his plan despite growing up in a community where people tend to think there is no chance because the odds are against them.
“The only person that can stand in your way is yourself, all the other stuff is just a lie,” Sanchez said.
He said there are several reasons why he loves his job but the greatest one is that he can serve the community he grew up in.
“I know the neighborhood inside and out like the back of my hand,” Sanchez said. “Anywhere that I would work as a firefighter I’d have that pride but really this one for me it’s always been a dream station.”