Man on fire

Dominick Tirnetta’s journey to becoming a firefighter.


Griffin Smith

Dominick Tirnetta at his current job being an EMT for Eagle Ambulance in Walnut Creek.

Griffin Smith, Staff Writer

The bright red flashing lights of an ambulance and the sudden loud horn or sirens of a fire truck evoke feelings of fear and dread for most people. However, when it comes to 19-year-old Dominick Tirnetta, he is different from the others. The Los Medanos College freshman takes in these sights and sounds with a feeling of excitement and opportunity.

“Breaking stuff down, taking out fires, physical stuff like that. Driving a truck, driving the fire engine, that’s what I want to do,” Tirnetta said. 

Not many high school students know what they want to do for a career after graduating. Most think they have an idea of what they plan to pursue, but those plans can change. But for Tirnetta, He’s always wanted to be a firefighter since middle school and has taken the proper steps so far in his journey to becoming one.

Tirnetta was born to be a firefighter, with both his dad and older brother setting the stage for him as firemen. His dad worked as a driver for most of his career before becoming a fire investigator and his 21-year-old brother is currently a paramedic firefighter in San Diego.

“Seeing what my dad was able to build, having a nice house, raising a family of five, taking trips to Tahoe and Hawaii every year, I want that exact life for my family,” Tirnetta said. “I want to be able to take my kids and wife on trips and have a nice house, I know that I’ll be able to supply that if I have a nice job like this.”

As a boy he has many memories of being at the firehouse and hearing the stories of the experienced fighters. The memories brought joy to his face and the stories fascinated him as a kid. Among his favorite memories are visiting the firehouse for Christmas with his father.

“Seeing all the pictures from their biggest fires, the engines and trucks, seeing everything they do and all their gear. I was like, ‘This is what I want to do’,” he said.

Being surrounded by the firefighter lifestyle made for a clear path in Tirnetta’s mind as to what he would do for a living the rest of his life. However, as clear as the path may have seemed, he’s faced plenty of obstacles already, including his own doubts.

“I doubted myself, thinking about all the people that have failed throughout the journey because they couldn’t pass a test or didn’t have the time for it,” he said. “ I thought, ‘Am I really cut out for all these physical jobs and mental tests, all the studying?’”

Even with his own doubt, Tirnetta stayed the course and put in hours upon hours of study time to pass big exams like the national test and kept his body in prime physical condition.

Standing at 5 feet 9 inches and weighing in at 172 pounds, Tirnetta is well built and strong with a persistent workout routine. He hits the gym at least four times a week and uses his workout time as therapy, turning his stress into strength and clearing his mind.

Currently Tirentta works as an EMT basic for Eagle ambulance, meaning he primarily transports patients from house to hospital. Already he has dealt with many different emergencies in his first few weeks on the job, including some life-threatening cases such as stroke and shock. 

“It’s nothing really that serious, just making sure the patient gets to where they need to go with the medical team,” he said.

Once Tirnetta finishes his schooling by transferring to Chabot College’s fire academy next year, he hopes to work for the Alameda County Fire Department. Wanting to stay in the Bay Area, he talked about why Alameda was the top fire department on his list.

“Alameda is the core of the Bay Area, you can cover Oakland or San Francisco,” Tirnetta said. “They also do boat operations and have helicopters and aircraft. They do it all.”

While Tirnetta has put in plenty of hard work and time to pass his classes, from becoming an EMT and being in a position to transfer for the fire academy, he claims to not be proud yet. Although he is in a good position to achieve his dreams at the age of 19, he said there is still much work to be done.

“I know I’m where I need to be right now, but I know I’m not where I want to be,” he said. “Once I get past this fire academy I’ll be a little proud of myself, but I’m nowhere near where I want to be, I’ll get there soon though, real soon.”