January 26, 2022

A path to service

Cortland Fire Department hires new firefighter

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland Fire Chief Charles Glover, center, adjusts the badge of newly sworn firefighter Pavel Androshchuk, left, Thursday at the Cortland Fire Department as Androshchuk’s grandfather, Vasiliy Kanichuk, right, looks on.

When Pavel Androshchuk would watch the Discovery Channel movie about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, he’d skipped to the last 12 minutes when the fire and rescue crews were helping people. It was the part that interested him most.

He’s wanted to be a firefighter for as long as he could remember.

“I’ve just always kind of been drawn to a life of service,” Androshchuk said. “I would watch movies or shows on how different rescues occurred. Chernobyl was a big deal where I came from, so the firemen there were hailed as heroes.”

His dream was made a reality last week when Cortland City Fire Chief Charles Glover pinned the badge on him during an official ceremony at the fire station.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Androshchuk said Thursday. “It’s kind of still sinking in.”

Androshchuk, 27, of Homer, is a native of Ukraine. He said his upbringing and ethnic background helped shape his life goal. His dad dedicated his life to serving God as a pastor and in the Ukraine it was customary that after graduating high school, men would go into the military for two years.

Androshchuk didn’t follow that route though, having moved back and forth between the United States and Ukraine over the years before settling here in 2009 after high school. However, he knew he wanted to serve whatever community he was in. It’s why he decided to become a volunteer firefighter for both Homer and Cortland. It was also his first step to becoming a firefighter in the city of Cortland.

Over the nine years Androshchuk volunteered, became an emergency medical technician, went to firefighter academy, became a paramedic, worked as a paramedic in Syracuse and took shifts at the Cortland Fire Department as what’s called a bunker.

As a bunker, he would work two days a week to a shift where he would learn from the paid firefighters. During his training, he also worked with TLC Emergency Medical Services ambulance, covering a 24-hour shift to cover living expenses. That was until about two to three weeks ago when he was given a position at the fire department, because of vacancies of firefighters on extended leave.

He plans to continue his Syracuse paramedic job.

Cortland Firefighter Brandon Casterline went through the academy with Androshchuk and said he is happy to be working with him.

“Pavel is a great guy,” Casterline said. “I’m excited to learn things from him and for him to learn from me.”

For his brother, Vasyl Androshchuk, watching his brother achieve his dream is inspiring. Androshchuk is one of 12 children in his family and the first to become a firefighter.

“I look up to him a lot,” Vasyl Androshchuk said. “I know he’s been waiting for this for a very long time.”

Androshchuk said he is taking the job one day at a time and reminding himself that he’s the person people look to for an answer when they’re in a bad situation.

“In the midst of someone else’s emergency, someone else’s chaos, being able to kind of calm things down and mitigate that situation, that’s fulfilling,” he said.