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Student firefighter-in-training founded in community

Dominique Diaz

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Campbell attends to a fire with a high-pressure hose. Photo Courtesy of Jesse Campbell.


Jesse Campbell started riding around in firetrucks with his dad when he was 13 years old.

“I’ve been on three fatal fires with a total of four people dead,” said Campbell, a first year health science major.

Campbell became an official cadet at age 14.

At 2 a.m. Oct. 3, 2009 he remembers the exact date he experienced his first fatal fire in a structure with two people stuck inside.

The fire took place at the top of a hill in Vallejo that gets a lot of wind from the bay. It blew the fire throughout the house.

They worked the fire for a long time before forcing it down.

“They got inside, got in one of the bedrooms and found one of the women,” Campbell said. “One of them they declared done and was left for the arson investigator, and then they tried to pull the other one out.”

Campbell was still new and unable to go inside, but helped in other ways.

“I went to help them out once they got to the front door,” he said. “She was pretty badly burned. That was interesting as a 14-year-old kid.”

His parents wanted him to consider other jobs but he was set on being a firefighter, he said.

“I think one of my first full sentences — my mom wrote it
down was, ‘I want to be a firefighter,'” Campbell said.

It’s what he loves to do.

“If I go more than a month without doing any sort of firefighter
thing then I go crazy,” Campbell said. “It’s bad. It’s almost like PMS but with fire.”

People assume that he’s a firefighter because of his involvement with the fire community.

“I usually correct people,” he said. “I haven’t gone through
the testing process. I haven’t gotten hired anywhere. It’s not my job yet.”

Firemen don’t only fight fires and rescue cats from trees, he said.

“I’ve been on a lot of shootings, stabbings, a lot of
homicides,” Campbell said.

He has witnessed more than the average 18-year-old has, he said.

“I’ve
seen more than most people will see in their lifetime,” Campbell said. “I’ve usually seen more than most people think of seeing or knew existed.”

Campbell hopes to be an official member of the Vallejo Fire Department after he graduates from Chico State.

He’s been on ride-outs downtown with the Chico Fire Department and with Butte County Emergency Medical Services, he said. When a person isn’t involved with their community, they feel left out.

“I’ve always had it ingrained in my heart that I have to be
involved where I’m at,” Campbell said. “One of the first things I did when I came up here was drive
around town for six hours. I want to
learn where I’m at and see what’s around me.”

Campbell went from a shy kid to an outgoing adult, he said. It’s a product of the job at the fire station.

“I’ll walk down to downtown Chico and see a homeless guy and
just strike up a conversation,” he said. “You can’t be scared. Or you can be scared, but you have to mask it and show bravery through it.”

Campbell will be a resident advisor next year. His friend, Daniel Dzierski, a sophomore business accounting major, said he’ll be great for the job.

“He’s continued to push himself to better the community as well as aid his growth,” Dzierski said.

Students enter college looking to make an impact and are motivated by their resident advisors to do so, he said.

“He will provide incoming freshmen a role model, model citizen and destined fire fighter,” Dzierski said.

Dominique Diaz can be reached at [email protected] or @dominiqueldiaz on Twitter.

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Student firefighter-in-training founded in community