Major: Animal Science
Hometown: Sunnyvale, CA
Ever since he was three years old, Tony Dito has wanted to be a firefighter. Combine that passion with charisma and endless energy, and it comes as no surprise that Dito is a Student Resident Firefighter at the UC Davis Fire Department. This program is one of only two offered in the country. After a four stage hiring process consisting of a physical agility exam, four interviews, four weeks of training in full gear in 105 degree weather, and being selected from a two year waiting list, Dito is living his dream. While in the program, which requires a minimum two year commitment, Dito lives at the UC Davis Fire Department, works four fourteen hour shifts, one twenty-four hour shift, and attends three mandatory trainings a month.
The intense program and training paid off. Dito is now qualified to respond to any call that a non-student resident firefighter can. This includes calls relating to fires, car accidents, and medical issues. Although Dito has yet to respond to a fatality, he describes his experiences as “a lot to handle. The things I have issues with are little kids and guys and girls that are my age who get hit by a drunk driver or are drinking and driving and kill people in the car. I get involved with people very easily. If I were to be talking with someone in a car accident who isn’t doing well, and they were to die; I would have a big problem with that. You see a couple things, and you get used to it. You can’t get distracted with what you have to do. When you are in a fire engine going 60 miles per hour with all the sirens going, you have so much adrenaline and are so focused that you don’t react to the emotions of the situations until after the job is done. Then you get back in the fire truck and it hits you.”
For most, the Student Resident Firefighting program and a full workload of classes would be enough to keep them on their toes, but not Dito. In addition to his incredibly heroic and time-consuming activities, he is also a goalie on the UC Davis Men’s Water Polo team. Senior year of high school, his water polo team was the Central Coast Section champions. This recognition helped him get spotted and recruited to play at UC Davis where he practices three days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. With his already full schedule, Dito explained that the team is important because it’s his way of maintaining a social life. “I am definitely feeling like I am missing out on some of the ‘Thursday-hey-lets-go-have-some-fun’ nights because I have to work a twenty-four hour shift. I have to make sacrifices, but I see my friends almost every day at practice. The guys on my team are phenomenal. We are all close.”
So, what does animal science have to do with firefighting? Everything if you plan to be a paramedic/firefighter. “I have always done better when learning hands on rather than out of the book. I am a kinesthetic learner. In animal science you read about reproductive stuff and then you go into the lab and dissect it and actually look at it. The major is basically the same as Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, but the animal science classes are hands on. It is just a fun major,” said Dito. After undergraduate studies at UC Davis, Dito’s next step would be paramedic school and then securing a position as a paramedic at a bay area fire station. Seeing that Dito has had no trouble following his dream thus far, there is no reason to doubt that we will some day see our Campus Celebrity™ doing what he loves most in the City by the Bay.