Wednesday, November 25, 2015 • 04:17

Captain Julian Clay is back where he first found the spark

Capt. Julian Clay is no stranger to Valley Center. Photo by Michael Crane
November 11, 2013
Sometimes life has a way of coming full circle. Captain Julian Clay has served for several different departments across Southern California during his 17-year career, but now he's back in the town where his passion for firefighting first caught fire.

"When I was in junior high over here in Valley Center, they had a work program during the summer where kids could work for the summer," said Clay. "They placed me here at Station 72." Clay painted fire hydrants, cleaned around the station, and performed other maintenance tasks. The firefighters made a strong impression on the young Clay, especially the captain. "After that I always wanted to be in the fire service," he said. "That was my start."

As one of the six new fire captains in town as a result of the San Pasqual Tribal Department's merger with the Valley Center Fire Protection District, Clay is now in charge of the same Station 72 that he briefly maintained in his youth.

"It's crazy how everything comes back to you," he said. Clay has noticed plenty of changes in Valley Center and the surrounding area since he was a kid, but he sees most of the change as positive. He says it's nice to be back in a familiar area he oversees now.

Born in Oceanside, Clay grew up on the San Pasqual Reservation and attended Valley Center Elementary and Middle School. He started as a firefighter on the reservation and then continued with Cal Fire for six years after that. He went on to fight fires at the Rincon Reservation and Riverside before returning to San Pasqual in 2010. He has been a captain for three years.

Clay is pleased with his new post and he's especially impressed by the work ethic of the Valley Center firefighters.

"They want to be here. They come to work ready to work. No complaining, none of that," he said. "I don't have to tell them to do their job, they're doing it already."

Clay shares the opinion that under ideal circumstances, the VCFPD could shift to a full-time department rather than relying on reserve firefighters. "It would be a whole lot better for the people, and for the community," he said.

In addition to being intimately familiar with the area and the tribal department, Clay has a wide range of experiences in the fire service. In Riverside, he worked in stations that responded to 30-50 calls per day, and he has also served on brush engines dealing with wildland fires. He likes the pace of working in Valley Center so far, but he is mindful of staying focused — even on slow days.

"The busier you are, the more you stay on target," he said.

Clay and his wife Kim have three sons, Jacob, Julian, and Wyley. His youngest son, Wyley, is just three months old and keeps Clay occupied.

"Right now, I have no free time," he said. "I forgot how much work it was." When he's not busy with the baby, Clay enjoys working out, going to the beach, and doing some yard work.

Although Clay currently lives in Temecula, he is thinking about moving back to the area eventually. He has no dramatic plans for the station aside from keeping things running as smoothly as possible.

"I want to do my best and make a good name for the tribal fire department," he said.

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