First responders will be special guests of Berkeley at Big Game

With the smoke that socked in Berkeley two weekends ago now gone, the Big Game is set for Saturday, and some of the state’s first responders will be on hand for the kickoff. (Photo: DD Gromit)

This year’s Big Game was supposed to take place two weekends ago, but it was pushed back by smoke from the Camp Fire in Northern California, smoke that made the Berkeley air tough to breathe as a spectator, much less a player.

Holding the game Saturday is that some of the first responders who fought that fire and others throughout the state will have the chance to be on hand when Cal and Stanford kick off: UC Berkeley offered 1,000 free tickets to first responders.

One of those who will be on hand is Oakland Fire Department Captain Nick Salgado, a Cal grad of the 1994 vintage. At least he hopes he’ll be on hand.

“My status is up in the air,” says Salgado, who sent some of his crew north to the Camp Fire and others to help out with the blazes in Southern California. “I may have to stay on duty Saturday.”

That’s part of the life of a firefighter. And Salgado said one of the perks is a chance like Saturday’s 121st renewal of the Big Game to step back and just take in a game.

“A day away from it is great for us,” he said. “It’s great for me personally because I went to school at Cal and It’s an opportunity to come together and be around my Cal family.

“The thing we know from being on this job is that we are not always in position to be able to do these kinds of things. We spend more time at work and serving others than we do at home often, and any chance to acclimate to normalcy is great. We get to enjoy what we have.”

There will be a pregame ceremony saluting the first responders before the noon kickoff at Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised by the Pacific-12 Network, with both teams owning 7-4 records and, presumably, both bowl-bound.