Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Between the testing and the training, the journey to becoming a Rochester firefighter can be a long one. But for one of the department's newest members, the journey has been even longer than most.
It all started 7,500 miles away - in Kenya.
Charles Muttay is just starting his second week as a "probie" with the Rochester Fire Department. Probies are probationary firefighters who have completed the academy and getting their on-the-job training.
"Being a firefighter is something I wanted to be," Muttay said. "I finally get to do what I always wanted to do."
Muttay, whose first assignment is on Truck 3 at the South Avenue fire station, remembers the day he first decided to be a firefighter. It was January 28, 2009, in Kenya. A supermarket in Nairobi caught fire, and 29 people were killed.
"It triggered something in me that I wanted to be part of a team that would make a difference," Muttay said.
But in his native country, firefighting jobs were scarce. Coming to the U.S. offered Muttay a chance.
"When he told us the story of what motivated him to want to become a firefighter, it hit home," said RFD Captain Dave Compton, who is supervising Muttay during his first weeks in the department. "It's a unique story, and very impressive, obviously."
The opportunity for Charles and his wife to move to America came through the Diversity Visa program also known as the "Green Card Lottery." While Muttay's first two applications were not winners, his wife's application was chosen. That cleared the way for the couple and their children to come to this country in 2012, and become American citizens.
His firefighting dream would still have to wait, however. Four years after their arrival in the United States, Muttay was working on a graduate degree in statistics at RIT. Then he learned a Civil Service Exam for firefighters had been announced.
With that test and fire academy training behind him now, Muttay is finally starting his dream job at the age of 40.
"To me, it's not too late because this is it. This is what I've been waiting to do for a long time, and finally I got the opportunity and it feels great," Muttay said.
Muttay admits to being nervous about his first day, but it didn't last long.
"It's a home away from home," Muttay said. "So by the end of the day, it was great."
Muttay, his wife, and four children, are living in Rochester's 19th ward. He says he is grateful for his new life in America, and to have his name on the Rochester Fire Department uniform.
At the end of the interview, Muttay sighed, looks at his uniform, and said, "This right here means a lot of responsibility. It's an honor to be able to be able to put on this uniform every single day. It's a great honor to serve and be able to make a difference in the community."