In uniform or, as his wife’s cell phone video shows, in a T-shirt and shorts, Captain Mike Smith with the Stockton Fire Department is always on-duty.
"Something that we do. It’s more in our blood than anything else,” Smith said.
Smith told FOX40 that he was on vacation with family this weekend in Southern California.
During their family reunion, his sister saw a huge plume of smoke -- a house was on fire. He grabbed his daughter’s boyfriend, Jake Tibbits, who is a volunteer firefighter in Illinois and the off-duty duo headed down the street, toward the billowing smoke.
"Just kind of a natural reaction, we thought that we might be there before the fire department gets there and be able to help out,” he said.
When the fire caused something to spark and pop, neighbors ran away, but with 23 years of experience, Smith went toward the danger.
"We almost always go towards it," he said. "There was a lady sleeping in the back room, carried her out and she mentioned that her dogs were still in the house so Jacob grabbed the three dogs."
Firefighters arrived soon after.
Within moments, in T-shirts and shorts, alongside geared up firemen, off- and on-duty firefighters continued to fight the flames.
"Not all surprised especially with Mike Smith. I would have expected nothing less from him,” said Captain John Votaw with the Stockton Fire Department.
Smith’s actions have made the rounds on social media, making him somewhat of a reluctant celebrity,
"It’s a natural reaction to help those guys out,” Smith said.
He insisted if it was any other firefighter they would have done the same.
"I think everybody once they take that position they’re on duty 24 hours a day,” Votaw said.
Smith said that even though he was not geared up, he would not put Tibbets nor himself in any danger. The two were not injured while fighting the fire in T-shirts and shorts.