Vaughn was a star athlete on the Dorsey High School football and track and field teams. Now he begins a rewarding career as a firefighter.
By Jason Lewis
Billy Vaughn Jr. spent his childhood and early adulthood adapting athletic competitions. While at Dorsey High School, he played defensively for the soccer team and won the Los Angeles City Section Championship in the 400-meter dash on the track team in 2013. He went on to play soccer in the state of San Diego.
Now that his playing career is over, Vaughn will be donning a new uniform. He has been hired by the Los Angeles Fire Department and will graduate this month. Through his two years of preparation to become a firefighter, he sees several parallels between his sports career and membership in the fire service.
“They have so many things in common,” he says. “The team aspect; the hard work; the daily grind of becoming something bigger than yourself; give back to your home community. You represent not only yourself, not only your team, but also the city. So it’s a great way to serve my hometown and my people.”
When Vaughn began pursuing a career in the fire service, he was looking for stability in his life as his son was born in 2019. He applied to the fire service in February 2020, when he joined the Los Angeles City Stentorians, a nonprofit community organization for African-American firefighters. The organization shares a building at the corner of Vernon Avenue and Normandie Avenue with the Los Angeles County Stentorians. With the Stentorians, Vaughn received firefighting training and was guided through the recruiting process.
After passing the written test for the fire department’s candidate rating, it became a waiting game for Vaughn. Instead of letting the rest pass, he took a proactive stance.
“Because there was so much time because you’re waiting to be selected, I wanted to keep busy,” he said. “So I came here (Stentorians Headquarters) as a volunteer and learned as much as I could. I obtained my fire engineering certificate. So I raised myself well.”
Vaughn was selected for an interview in September 2021. He took classes to earn his emergency medical certificate, and he received his candidate physical skills test certificate. After passing the background check and medical and physical evaluation, he was offered a job. The next steps are the derrick and then graduation.
As a member of the Stentorians, Vaughn helped a lot during his trial.
“They’re great with hands-on work,” he said. “With ladders and snakes; with the culture of this specific department; the process. Many of the members of the Stentorians call and check on me.”
During the two-year process of getting hired, Vaughn held various jobs. He worked at Costco, as a security guard, and he is currently a lab technician in Calabasas.
“I had to support my son, but I also had to pursue my dreams and goals,” he said. “So those were rough days when I didn’t get much sleep.”
There will be one last ritual that Vaughn must endure. At the graduation ceremony, there’s what’s called “jumping for your badge,” where the firefighters jump off a five-story ledge onto the lighthouse.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Then you go through the whole tower, I’ll go through that. That’s cake. I’ll do that more than once if I have to.”
For information about joining the Los Angeles City Fire Department, visit www.joinlafd.org. For information on the Stentorians of Los Angeles City, visit www.lacitystentorians.org. For more information about the Los Angeles County Stentorians, visit www.lacountystentorians.org.