SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KTVU) - It's all about being prepared but for this EMT Sarah Buscher it doesn't feel like work. She’s been with the South San Francisco Fire Department for about a year and a half and as far back as she can remember this is the career she wanted.
She's even has documented evidence from first grade and second grade. “Those little things kids fill out in first grade,” explains Buscher, “What do you want to be when you grow up I’ve written every single one of them has said paramedic firefighter.”
And she says that dream may have actually been born when South City firefighters responded to a 9-1-1 call when she was just four years old.
“Two calls in a matter of 12 hours,” says Buscher, “so I more remember what my mom told me I don't remember exactly what happened. So apparently I kind of stared off into space I had a locked jaw white knuckled fistsand they called 9-1-1 because they couldn't get my attention. The next morning it happened again so the same crew came and took me to the hospital.”
Captain Anthony Ottoboni was on both those calls. He’s been a South City firefighter since 1996.
Years later he doesn’t remember specifics from the call but he does remember Sarah visiting the firehouse with her school.
“A year or two afterwards I go into kindergarten,” says Buscher,” I come and tour the fire station with the girl scout group and then while I’m touring they are showing us the ambulance and they asked anyone ever take a ride in an ambulance anyone ever seen the back of an ambulance I tell the story.”
Ottoboni says “as soon as it was answered the light bulb went on and I looked over and I recognized Sarah and her mom and I said now I remember.”
That led to more conversations and Buscher says, “We put two and two together and turns out I was in school with his son Joey, it was kind of cool.”
Over the next 15 years or so these two families would grow even closer. Both Joey and Sarah wanted to be firefighters when they grew up.
“They came for school visits when they do fire prevention weeks,” says Buscher, “and I ran into captains and I would say I can't wait to become a firefighter and work for the city and stuff like that.”
And a few years ago when Captain Ottoboni's son Joey left for college, Sarah stayed close to home.
“I started right out of high school when I was 18 and I’m 21,” she explains, “now I’ve finished my associates degree in fire technology, I’ve done a college pre-service fire academy as well as my EMT certificate in the fall. I start my paramedic school which is about a year and a half process and after that I hope to get hired.”
It's a long road, but this one comes with a familiar face and a mentor. Captain Ottoboni says historically this has always been a hard industry to get into.
“I remember when I tested,” He says, “5 thousand of my closest friends and I took the test and only 6 of us made it,” But he says he’s confident that Buscher can do it. “And that's the passion that she has and she's not going to quit until she gets it, that’s why I tell her just to keep going.”
While there are no guarantees that she'll get to work here in South City once she becomes a paramedic she is already making her mark as one of only four women in the department. That is a great source of pride for Buscher.
“There weren't that many women in the fire service when I was four or five years olds. Firefighters were mostly male based so it is changing and to be a part of that change is honestly one of the greatest things for me.”
Both admit it is something to think about the remarkable odds that had them crossing paths for that first time so long ago.
“We are somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 thousand calls a year,” says Ottoboni, “so the odds of me being on duty at that particular time to be the one that responded to her house those are pretty long odds.”
It’s also pretty remarkable when you see where they are today. Both families just went on vacation together in Washington DC. And both Sarah and Captain Ottoboni's son Joey are still working towards that dream of becoming firefighters.
A dream they are getting closer to every day.
“It’s even more than I thought it would be.” Says Buscher.
It’s a bond that Ottoboni says will continue to grow saying, “Almost everyone has a job a few people have careers and then there are the lucky few who are firefighters.”