HomeNewsFighting fires becomes passion and career goal for CHS students

Fighting fires becomes passion and career goal for CHS students

Published April 5, 2023


Pursuing a career in the field of fire fighting takes grit, intelligence and time on top of a long training process, yet this does not stop some Carmel High School students from chasing after their goals and risking their lives to help their community. 

Volunteer fire services, such as Cachagua Fire, Big Sur Fire and Mid Coast Fire Brigade, have afforded a few CHS students their first look into the field. Junior Julia Stenvick first started attending Cachagua Fire’s weekly meetings after she felt helpless during the 2020 Carmel Fire.

“I hated the idea that people were risking their lives to save my house, my property and my animals when their houses were getting burnt down,” Stenvick says.

Cachagua Fire provides youth and adults alike with a range of training and experience through their weekly meetings on Tuesday nights. (courtesy of JULIA STENVICK)

This organization of local volunteer firefighters are always on call, and they respond to medical emergencies and other natural disasters, rather than just fires. Senior Jackson Roby started attending Cachagua Fire’s weekly meetings in 2022 as he finds value in having this volunteer experience.

Jesse Reimer, chief of Cachagua Fire, is also a 2011 CHS alum. Reimer’s interest in the field started his junior year of high school when he took a fire science course, and soon after he joined Cachagua Fire. Reimer currently runs his own business as an electrical contractor, but continues his work in the field through Cachagua Fire. 

“The best advice I could give would be to join a volunteer department because you’ll get such a good taste of what it would be like, you would get good experience, and it looks great on a résumé,” Reimer explains. 

CHS alum Jacob Ross has also been a part of Cachagua Fire for around a year and a half as a paid on-call volunteer, and he was recently hired on with CalFire as a part of the Monterey and San Benito unit after years of training at programs and academies

“Curriculum encompasses everything from search techniques to advancing a hose to ladder operations to donning and doffing PPE,” Ross explains of the long and grueling training process. “It’s one of those things where the list never ends.”

Stenvick and sophomore Bella Tanguay also attended Camp Cinder last year, which provides young girls with the knowledge, skill and experience needed to start off their career path as a firefighter. During this five-day experience, attendees learn about hose movements, water rescue and vehicle and helicopter usage among other important rescue skills. 

“We got to work with a lot of the tools that firefighters use in wildfires and for structure fires,” Tanguay says. “We got to use some of the tools to get people out of the cars, so auto-extrication tools, and PPE equipment, so all of the masks and tanks.”

Tanguay plans to further her education in the field by taking EMT certification courses at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo over the summer and next year.

CHS alum Aidan Camargo has just started training with Big Sur Fire, where he is learning about the different tools and protective gear firefighters use. (photo by AIDAN CAMARGO)

After high school, there are a few different routes that prospective firefighters can take. While a college education is a possibility, many go straight into a firefighter academy, such as local-based Monterey Peninsula College Firefighter Academy.

Roby plans to go study abroad next year, but upon his return, he will take paramedic courses to gain his certifications, and although Monterey Peninsula’s College Fire Academy is a great program for many, Roby hopes to go straight to a department in his training. 

“If you go to a department and you have those certifications and you show that you’re willing to work and put that effort in to become a firefighter, then they will pay you on the job,” Roby says. 

Recent alum Aidan Camargo, who graduated from CHS in 2021, has been working with Big Sur Fire since the beginning of this year. To receive his Fire Fighter 1 Certification and EMT license through Big Sur Fire, Camargo studies in a classroom setting from 6 to 10 p.m. every weekday, and then on the weekends he puts these skills he learned into practice. Camargo will soon be moving down to Ventura to continue his training at a fire department located in Ojai, where he will gain experience in dealing with wildfires. 

Daniel Higman, CHS Class of 2017, attended San Diego State University to get his bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences to gain résumé experience and worked on an ambulance during his senior year of college. Higman then attended MPC Fire Academy and has currently just finished his first trimester of probation with Salinas Fire. During a probationary period, Higman works for 48 hours straight and then has 96 hours off, but even on his time off he is always studying and preparing for his next work cycle. 

Higman, along with others, recommends those who are interested in pursuing this career path go on ride-alongs and talk with local firefighters to get a feel for the intensity of the job.

“Getting good grades, staying active and doing community service is the best way to start because you can use that in your interviews later,” Higman says, “and it shows that you’re dedicated to the community to actually help.”

Ross hopes to continue his career to train future firefighters and create a welcoming environment for students coming into the field. 


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