By JASON ECK
He helped snuff fires in Northern California for nearly four decades, including 30 years in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.
But as of Monday, the only fire West Point resident Jim Carroll will worry about is the one in the wood stove of his log home.
Carroll worked his final 24-hour shift with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) Monday. The last three years of his career were spent in his second stint as a battalion chief on the Tuolumne County side of the Tuolumne-Calaveras Ranger District. He and another chief oversaw all of the CDF and Tuolumne County Fire Department stations across the county.
Now 54, Carroll was 17 when his career began in the summer of 1965.
Between his junior and senior years in high school, Carroll was hired as a seasonal firefighter at a CDF station near Fresno, and he continued on the summer fire lines through three years in college.
Even from his first season, he loved what he was doing.
"They had to yank me off the engine because I had to go back to high school," Carroll said.
That summer was also marked by the Watts Riots in Los Angeles. Firefighters, including many of Carroll's colleagues, were sent to help keep the peace, but Carroll said he was too young to fill that role.
The racially sparked riots lasted six days, leaving 34 dead, more than a thousand people injured, nearly 4,000 arrested and hundreds of buildings destroyed.
"I was pretty sure I didn't want anything to do with that," he said.
Raised in Fresno, Carroll went on to earn a degree in geology. But the excitement of firefighting still burned in his mind.
He worked as a firefighter three summer seasons during college before graduating and taking a job as a field geologist with Mobile Oil.
For more than two months, Carroll mapped rock formations and scouted drill locations on San Miguel Island, one of Southern California's Channel Islands.