By Kayli Harley, Staff writer
// The school hallways he once walked through were vacant and still as sirens blared just up the street, breaking the silence of the once normal day. As he braved the frontline, the wind enlarged the flames, worsening the devastation of the hills he was so accustomed to. His routine call found its way closer to home for Acalanes alumni Anthony Paolini.
Having graduated in 2011, Paolini, is currently a firefighter for station 76 in the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District in Hercules, California. On Sunday, Oct. 27, Paolini’s station was part of a special task force for Contra Costa County during the red flag warnings. His crew came to Lafayette to fight the El Curtola Boulevard fire after having been to both Bethel Island and Crockett earlier that day.
This particular situation was anything but a normal occurrence for Paolini and his crew. The rareness of the Curtola fire made him eager to respond to the call.
“I wanted to jump on it a little more because most of the time we are getting vehicle accidents, or we are going to medical calls. We get a fire every once in a while, but for a big vegetation fire to happen like that, in the city that I grew up in, it was pretty wild,” Paolini said.
Having attended Acalanes as a student, as well as grown up in Lafayette, Paolini was especially driven to contain the fire and protect the community so near and dear to his heart.
“For it to happen right up the street from my high school and in the city I grew up in was pretty crazy. It put a little more pep in my step, I wanted to stop the fire at the top of the hill before it burned the house and the cell tower at the very top,” Paolini said.
Paolini’s past experiences at Acalanes not only made his ambition to put out the fire greater, but also helped influence his decision to pursue firefighting as his career. It was during his time at Acalanes that he came to realize that becoming a firefighter was his passion.
“I think it was the Senior year career day at Acalanes. That was when I was like yep, this is perfect for me,” Paolini said. “I have always been the type of guy who ran towards danger to solve problems and mitigate chaos. I love it, it is my fuel for life.”
Specific classes at Acalanes, such as woodshop and auto shop, gave Paolini the opportunity to hone in on important skills needed to be a firefighter. In these classes, he found that he worked well with his hands, which is an important component to his job.
Acalanes also taught Paolini the importance of working with others — a skill he uses daily as a firefighter.
“Another thing that Acalanes taught me, was to work as a team. It [the fire service] is very family oriented, we are very close, we are very tight. We do a lot for each other, we work together, we see a lot of things together, and we deal with stress and we mitigate chaos together. That is a huge part of it.”
On a broader scale, Acalanes prepared Paolini for becoming a firefighter by demonstrating morality and human kindness.
“I would say that Acalanes just taught me how to treat people right and work hard. Everything that I learned in high school taught me how to help people, how to treat people,” Paolini said.
Although the recent fires were devastating, for Paolini they serve as a reminder of why he risks his life daily as a firefighter.
“When these fires happen it reminds me that I serve a strong purpose for my community,” Paolini said. “I feel very proud because I sought out the perfect career for me.”