FireHouse 101
San Diego Spotlight
Meet a Volunteer

Santana High School Shooting Survivor Curtis Wilson Understands the Urgency of First Response

Please follow and like us!

Santana High School – Sophomore Curtis Wilson was hanging out with his friends, waiting for the first bell to tell him to head to class on March 5, 2001. He’s not sure what he was thinking about: a test, a cute girl down the hall, or surfing. What he does remember are the pop, pop, pop sounds of the gunshots. He watched one classmate fall. A friend shot. And there was nothing he could do…

Curtis Wilson and his family

Curtis Wilson and his family

Curtis Wilson lives the Southern California lifestyle. At 29, this San Diego Native has surfed around the world, sometimes competitively, fallen in love, married, and met the second love of his life, his toddler Eliza.

He has a fire science degree from Miramar College, and, as a full time paramedic since 2005, he is one of those who arrive to help if you are having an emergency – either medical, such as a heart attack or stroke, or accident, such as a car crash or falling off of a ladder.

Since 2010 he has also served as a volunteer firefighter  and chief medical officer  for the volunteer department in Campo, one of San Diego County’s more rural areas.

Campo Firefighter of the Year

As a Campo volunteer firefighter, Curtis uses all of his skills to help people, both locals and those visiting  from the city for a weekend.  “We are 45 minutes from the nearest hospital, so we have to be able to do it all… and we do.”

In 2013, Chief John Francois selected him as  the Campo firefighter of the year.  According to the Chief, “Curtis has put in many long hours to set up a uniform system for all of our medical bags so that in an emergency each apparatus is identical. This attention to detail not only eliminated extra time searching for materials, it has also  improved our level of readiness when dealing with medical matters out in the community. His positive ‘can do’ attitude and passion for the fire service have made him one of Campo’s best.”

As for Curtis’ goals, he is working towards becoming a full time firefighter. “Being a volunteer is the best way to get the training to become a full time firefighter.” In return, Curtis helps the other volunteers who want to learn to be paramedics achieve their  goals. “You need one year of experience before you can go to paramedic school. This is the best place to get that experience. You see everything up here.” 

It’s not easy being a volunteer. “I can only work one day per week, and I appreciate the sacrifice my family makes to allow me to do this,” he says. He also says the volunteer department is like a second family. “We look out for each other.”

Curtis admits there are many challenges of being a San Diego County Fire Department volunteer. Two of the biggest are:

1)     staffing – more volunteers are needed at the stations

2)     financial support – while on duty as a volunteer, there is no pay for rent and living expenses, which is difficult on families especially given the amount of time they are away from home.

When asked about that day at Santana high school, he will tell you, “I was a sophomore – a kid. I saw the first boy killed. Kids were laying on the floor and I didn’t know what to do to help them. I was determined never to feel that sense of helplessness again.” Those horrible, life-changing moments became the inspiration for one man to be there when choices literally mean life or death.


Curtis Wilson at the Fire Academy

Curtis practices repelling down a building at the Fire Academy


Connecting the fire hose at the Fire Academy


Ladder drills at the fire academy.