By Sharon Chin

OAKLAND (KPIX) — Charles Hobbs proves he can keep up with trainees half his age. At age 51, the Martinez man just graduated from the Fire Academy on the Chabot College campus in Alameda County.

“It’s a very rewarding place to be,” Hobbs said.

“It’s very unusual for a 51-year-old to come through this,” said retired fire captain Bob Buell, who coordinates the fire technology program at Chabot. It also trains at the Alameda County fire tower.

Buell says most academy students are from age 19 to the mid-30s.

Mre mature students like Hobbs can bring valuable life experience as better communicators and problem-solvers than their younger counterparts.

“The four Cs I look for in someone who can make it in this profession, he’s already coming in with it,” Buell said. “He’s bringing this combination of confidence, competence, consistency and compassion.”

Hobbs, a personal trainer, decided to become a first-responder after he rescued a child in 2019.

He and his wife were on vacation, riding a ski lift at Lake Tahoe, when he saw a father clutching his young son.

“His child slipped off the lift,” Hobbs said. “The father reached over to hold the son’s hand below the chair.”

Hobbs jumped off the ski lift and yelled to the father, above, to let go his son so Hobbs could catch him.

“I was right beneath the kid when the kid fell down. I slapped the skis and hugged him and we bounced off the snow,” Hobbs said.

He then realized his calling.

“It was a surreal feeling where it was like ‘this is what I’ve been searching for,'” Hobbs said.

Now he starts applying for firefighting jobs for experience.

“At the end of the day, helping people is rewarding. It feels good when you go home and you make a difference in a person’s life that was positive,” Hobbs explained. “I just hope I can live up to the honor of what firemen represent.”

Buell would say Hobbs’ fiery passion for his new profession is already inspiring others, no matter their age.