Raymond Bally ‘19, like every other first year student at Cornell, lived on North Campus freshman year. But a month after moving into his freshman dorm, someone handed him a quarter-card about volunteering to be a firefighter in Cayuga Heights.
Bally now lives full-time at the firehouse and is part of the team of volunteers that respond to emergencies in the Ithaca community. The Cayuga Heights Fire Department is a 100 percent volunteer organization, providing fire and advanced life support emergency medical services to the Village of Cayuga Heights, portions of the Town of Ithaca and sections of Cornell University. The department is comprised of local residents and undergraduate and graduate students, many from Cornell.
“It seemed daunting at first when I learned about volunteering while also juggling Cornell classes,” Bally said. “But then you realize that it’s easy to separate the two — 33 percent of the volunteer firefighters are students and so when I’m at the fire station I get a lot of great energy, which has helped me when I come back to school.”
Bally, who is an English major, is also a certified emergency medical technician, so he is often a first responder to medical emergencies such as car accidents, violent traumas and heart attacks. The biggest adjustment to his job, for him, was moving into the fire station and being depended upon to respond to late-night emergency calls, Bally said.
“I know what it’s like to be inside a fire,” Bally said. “But being a volunteer not only involves climbing ladders or fires, it also means taking care of people in some of the worst medical emergencies they have ever been through.”
The Cayuga Heights Fire Department provides all of the training and gear that Bally needs.
Anyone dedicated to helping people can become a volunteer firefighter, he said. “In order to do this job, it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you show up with the willingness to learn and to be challenged."
When he is not on-call, Bally is also a writing tutor at the Knight Writing Institute. After graduation, he plans to continue his studies to become a professor, though he will continue to volunteer.
“Being a volunteer has been really rewarding. I have become friends with people in the Ithaca community, some of whom are 40 years older than me, who I would probably have never met if I wasn’t a volunteer,” Bally said. “They are really generous with their time and it’s a valuable experience interacting with people who aren’t just Cornell students. It’s good to get out of the Arts Quad and see the rest of the world”
Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant in the College of Arts & Sciences.