EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- Many of us are looking forward to the day we can finally wake up, not have to go to work, and enjoy the life of being retired; and that's what's happening for one local firefighter.
Monday, the nation's first-ever Hmong firefighter worked his last shift in Eau Claire, leaving his mark in firefighting history.
You could definitely tell by the excitement in his voice that Bouachao Xiong, 55, is looking forward to retiring; but you could also tell by the way he talked with coworkers, that he will be greatly missed among the department.
Xiong has been serving the Eau Claire community for more than 25 years since he was first hired by the fire department in May 1991. That day, Xiong became the first Hmong firefighter in the nation, and he's still the only Hmong firefighter in the Eau Claire department today.
As the nation's first Hmong firefighter, Xiong says he hopes to inspire more Hmong to go into this profession.
“I think its good profession for the young Hmong to be in it because we don't have many Hmong people in this profession,” he said. “So I suggest that future young Hmong people should look into this profession and go to school for it.”
Xiong's coworkers say he's going to be greatly missed among the department, but there’s one thing in particular that there really going to miss, and that's his cooking.
“I know they like the way I cook,” Xiong said.
“He makes great stir-fry and eggrolls,” said Eau Claire Fire Chief Christian Bell. “It wasn't so much that he makes it, it was like we’d cook meals and he’d watch us cook our meals, he’d be like ‘you’re doing it all wrong.’”
Aside from his cooking bringing together all the firefighters in Eau Claire, coworkers say working alongside him, was like working with family.
“It’s just been a good time working with him,” Bell said. “Part of the best part about this whole fire job is the relationships we build. You live with each other 24/7, it becomes you’re family away from home, and that's what it as working with Chao.”
“I will never forget my coworkers, the professionalism of this job, the respect of this job, the excitement of this job,” Xiong said. “I’ll miss that; I’ll miss a lot about my coworkers, how we lived together, how we work together.”
Bell added they've got big shoes to fill as Xiong leaves his mark in the Eau Claire community.
“I’m proud to be a firefighter in the City of Eau Claire, for the Eau Claire Fire Department,” Xiong said. “I like to thank the fire department that gave me the chance to work with the fire department. I like to thank my coworkers; my chief; my captain; my lieutenant; firefighters that work well with me that accepted me into this department. I’m going to miss them.”
Xiong says he doesn't have any set plans for retirement just yet, but he plans on taking a couple months off and he's looking forward to be able to spend more time with his family.