James Selover “fires up” his passion for life


James Selover

Battalion Chief James Selover has earned his position through years of firefighting practice.

Steven Deng and Ronit Kumar

San Ramon Valley Fire Department Battalion Chief James Selover had not always wanted to be a firefighter. In fact, until he was 18 years old, he wanted to own an automobile body shop and paint cars.

Inspired by a friend taking firefighting classes, however, Selover joined the Hayward Explorer program and soon discovered his passion for the occupation.

“It was kind of like our own mini fire department, so it was really interesting to me and exciting,” Selover said.

While working at the explorer program, Selover had many role models that he looked up to, but he emphasized that he also had outside mentors, particularly his parents.

“They taught me a good work ethic and to work really hard and to pursue any goals that you have,” Selover said.

Becoming a battalion chief was certainly neither a short nor easy process.

Selover began as a standard firefighter and performed manual labor, pulling hoses and throwing ladders. Then, he was promoted to an engineer and learned how to control the fire apparatus. As his rank increased, so did his responsibility, as he learned how to operate and maintain all of the fire equipment. Later, Selover worked in a job as a training captain for a few years, in which he used his experience to develop training methods for the newer firefighters.

Eventually, he reached his current rank as battalion chief. He is currently is in charge of a whole shift (A-shift, B-shift and C-shift) and manages 10 stations for each one. In addition, Selover occasionally manages the role of interim fire deputy chief and fills in for Frank Drayton.

During his time working as a firefighter, Selover has had the opportunity to save many people’s lives. His most memorable experiences include helping a woman deliver a baby and participating in a cardiac save.

“You’re changing someone’s life. You’re helping someone be able to have another Thanksgiving or Christmas, another holiday with their family, like in the instance of the cardiac save. It’s a good, positive thing. You’re helping someone bring a baby into this world, that’s pretty cool too,” Selover said.

However, being a firefighter isn’t always easy. For Selover, nighttime fires have proven to be especially difficult.

“The nighttime fires are challenging because you can’t always see how to get into a certain area or what the terrain looks like. You just see a glow,” Selover described. “You just see redness, and they always seem bigger at nighttime.”

In addition to these night fires, Selover has also helped put out many local wildfires. These fires tend to be small and can be put out quickly by first alarm units. However, Selover is starting to notice a trend among these wildfires.

“Every year we say, ‘This is going to be the worst fire season ever.’ Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t, but it seems like the season is growing. It could be a combination of the drought and stuff like that, but it definitely seems like the wildland fire season is getting bigger,” Selover said.

Although he plans to retire in four years, Selover continues to take pride in his prestigious job as a battalion chief.

“I’m honored, I’m privileged, and it’s a blessing to be able to help people for your job. It’s been a really good career,” Selover said.