Vaka Taimani is living a childhood dream – he’s riding in large, shiny red trucks, helping people out of threatening situations, all while wearing a cool uniform. Vaka’s a volunteer firefighter for the Felton (CA) Fire Protection District (FFPD), and he’s actively training to turn his volunteer passion into a full-time vocation.
We met Vaka at the immaculate Felton firehouse, just a block from downtown, and a mere eight miles from the coastal city of Santa Cruz. He was participating in a monthly training session and stayed late to chat. We quickly learned that Vaka’s glad he started his firefighting career as a volunteer, and that he hopes to bring the volunteer spirit with him as a professional firefighter:
We volunteer to do this, it’s out of passion and want … it’s nice to be able to do something that means more to me personally than just it being a 9 to 5.
The title of Vaka’s blog, Faith Life Soul, represents his core beliefs and summarizes his quiet but driven demeanor. Like many of his peers, he’s given countless hours to Felton Fire and the community. Since getting accepted to FFPD early in 2007, he’s thrown himself into the rigorous firefighting certification and training process while juggling family responsibilities:
When I first got on, I spent months of my own personal time down here, I just wanted to learn everything, and its really paid off …. I know that I need to balance my family life with this work life but in a sense, it feels like this volunteering is part of family as well.
Like most departments, Felton Fire is first responder for medical emergencies, and given its location at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, FFPD also runs the region’s Large Animal Rescue program. In the middle of it all, Tongan Vaka handles each new situation with a consistent desire to serve others.