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First-ever San Diego Fire-Rescue pilot becomes US Citizen

The first-ever pilot hired by SDFD in 2005 just became a naturalized US Citizen.

SAN DIEGO — The first-ever pilot hired by San Diego Fire-Rescue in 2005 is now a US Citizen after a naturalization ceremony. 

Chris Hartnell, Fire-Rescue Helicopter Pilot for San Diego Fire-Rescue, became a naturalized US citizen after serving more than 20 years in the SDFD Air Operations Division as a Canadian citizen, according to SDFD officials.

"I met a gal, and got married, and was flying in Canada at the time, and came to the United States to get married and start a new career," Hartnell told CBS 8 Photojournalist Collen Murphy.

"Having a person like Chris here for so long [really] brings consistency to the department," SDFD Assistant Chief Chris Webber said.

But that's not all that makes Chris Hartnell a prized asset of San Diego Fire-Rescue. 

Hartnell's journey to the flight deck began in 1998 when he moved to the United States from Canada. 

From aerial firefighting missions to cliff and mountainside rescues, Hartnell flies it all. 

"I had no idea I would be sworn in that day, and I was," Chris Hartnell said.

For about 20 years, Pilot Chris Hartnell served the San Diego community as a citizen of Canada, but that all changed at a naturalization ceremony for Chris — to become a US Citizen.

"I felt very patriotic. I felt American even though I wasn't," Chris said. "Now I can proudly say I'm an American citizen; I'm very excited about it." 

Hartnell said he's already registered to vote and can't wait to get his U.S. passport.

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