Senior Editor

Editor’s Note: The Inertia is excited to head to Ventura, Calif. with Flying Embers, a proud member of Ventura’s vibrant community. This month, CREATORS will profile individuals making innovative contributions to surf and outdoor culture in “The City of Good Fortune.” Color us lucky to hang with purveyors of tasty, hard booch and feature Ventura’s inspiring humans for the next four weeks. Watch our episodes with Michael Arenal and Darrick Rasmussen, and stay tuned for the final installment. 

Caleb Amico has his priorities in order. The 27-year-old firefighter works hard, loves his family, and knows how to make the most of both. He’s a vital part of the Ventura community, and it’s a community he adores.

“In Ventura County, you have so many talented people who are just down to earth” he said. “They’re there to support their community and support their friends.”

Amico started working on a firefighting crew when he was young, so it makes sense that he ended up where he is today. “That’s kind of all I knew,” he explained. “That’s where I put my eggs in the basket — to work hard, to be gone — I kind of didn’t know anything different.”

He’s part of a larger community of real life heroes: The people who put their lives on the line come fire season in California. He’s one of the brave souls willing to put it all out there to protect the people (and homes) he lives near. It’s hard to overstate the importance of the role Amico and the rest of the the firefighters play in Ventura, and that became readily apparent in December of 2018 when high winds caused power lines to come into contact with one another. Fanned by hot, dry Santa Ana winds, the blaze quickly gained steam. It would, of course, become the Thomas Fire, the seventh-largest wildfire in modern California history.

Over a thousand structures were destroyed, half of them homes. The agricultural area in Ventura suffered nearly $200 million in losses. Nearly 9,000 firefighters worked around the clock to contain it, but as is the case with fires that size and intensity, it was an uphill battle. And for Amico, it literally hit close to home.

“With the fire behavior the way it was and the wind behind it, it just took off,” Amico remembered. Like everyone knows, it went off to the races, and we were trying to play catch up after that. You’re driving down through places you grew up, seeing friends’ houses going up.”

If there is a silver lining in such a catastrophe, it’s that intense hardship can serve as a sort of binding agent for the people who experience it together.

“It brought the community together,” he said. “People were helping each other out. Neighbors helping neighbors, which was awesome, but to see that significant impact… I don’t think anyone thought it would go to the level it did.”

Being a firefighter isn’t an easy job. The hours are long. The days are dangerous. You’re away from your family for long stretches of time, and the stress weighs heavily on those who do it for a living. Which means that they must have some sort of outlet. And for Amico, it’s the ocean and his family. That’s what grounds him.

“You need to be able to do something that refreshes you and your family,” he said. “Go and do something that’s going to give you joy and go back to your roots. It’s a trip. You have so many aspects of our community, and somehow we all get along. A lot of it is from surfing. It’s brought everyone together.”

In the end, Amico’s main focus in life is his family. That’s why he does the job he does. That’s why he spends as much time as he can with them. And without the Ventura community, it wouldn’t be the same.

“What’s best for my family?” he asked. “How can I work hard and provide for them? How can I give my kids and my wife the best quality of life? That’s always what inspires me. I just want to see my kid stoked on whatever he does. I want to see my wife stoked. I want to see my daughter stoked.”

Shot and edited by Kyle Maclennan. Follow Kyle @kylemacvisuals on Instagram.

Watch our most recent episode of CREATORS presented by Flying Embers (the Ventura edition) starring Darrick Rasmussen and Michael Arenal.


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