Gaining the Skills to Save Others Gave Radnor Firefighter Bozena Rolla a New Perspective on Herself

Bozena Rolla was searching for a volunteering opportunity to help others when her work colleague told her he was a volunteer firefighter, and maybe she should be, too.

The suggestion shocked Bozena – and delighted her.

“In Poland, where I am from, I know that there were volunteers in the fire company, but I never heard about any women volunteering, ever,” she said.  “And I was then 45! I had my doubts that anyone would want me as a volunteer!”

Her co-worker assured her that her local fire company not only wanted her help, but they and her neighbors needed her.  Most Pennsylvania municipalities – including Radnor Township - are served by fully volunteer or combination departments.  Call volumes have never been higher, but the number of volunteers has dwindled from about 300,000 in the 1970s to about 38,000, a 2018 state report found.

So Bozena signed up, started training, and became a volunteer firefighter, first for East Whiteland and then, when she moved, for Radnor Fire Company.

“I like being able to do something about bad things – that’s what keeps me interested,” said Bozena, who is now 50.  “I don’t just watch what’s happening on the TV, I go and help somebody.”

She’s doing lots of things, within Radnor Fire Company and in the rest of her life. At her work, ProMetrics, she’s a project manager.  She’s married to Darek and mom to a 28-year-old son. She loves reading and knitting, but gladly puts her book or sweater down when someone in Radnor Township or a nearby community needs her.  

She also loves the non-emergency aspects of firefighting.  “I like going to schools and talking to kids about fire safety. I like talking to people at public events about fire prevention, and making sure they have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers at home, and know how to avoid having fires at home,” Bozena said. “I like making sure everybody knows how to be safe.”

Volunteer firefighting has changed the way Bozena sees herself. 

“I never thought I could do it, and I did it,” she said. “It’s a such a sense of accomplishment and pride.”

Bozena wants others to know that they can do it, too. “Everyone should consider volunteering to do something good for the community, and just to see how much they can accomplish with a crew,” she said.

She hopes her message reaches other women, who maybe don’t know they have this option. “I recommend it to women, because we are mentally very strong. We don’t give up that easy! We have tenacity,” Bozena said. "Also, there are many situations where female presence makes a difference, especially with kids involved.”