By Elizabeth Klinge

STOCKTON (CBS13) – It wasn’t an average call for the crew at Stockton’s Fire Station 4, responding to the University of the Pacific to help open an ancient campus artifact.

“No one knew what was inside, it hadn’t been opened in so long,” said Fire Capt. Aaron Reisinger.

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The mystery? A five-foot-tall steel safe discovered deep in the basement of the school’s iconic burns tower.

“We were cleaning up and down in the basement,” said UOP President Christopher Callahan. “I went down there and I see this safe, a very old safe in the corner, so what’s this about?”

It turns out it hadn’t been opened in about 50 years.

“Breaking into it was really hard,” Callahan said.

The crew had to be careful not to damage any of the contents inside.

“We didn’t use any cutting torches, or saws anything like that,” Reisinger said.

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So they ended up using the jaws of life – the same tool they use to pry people out of car crashes – and the suspense was high, not knowing what secrets would soon be revealed.

Inside the safe, they found priceless papers detailing the origins of the school.

“The University of the Pacific is the first university ever chartered by the state of California, and these are the original documents,” Callahan said.

Items discovered included hand-written journals dating back to 1851 and other historical documents, including an 1862 diploma printed on animal skin.

“It just permeates with history,” Callahan said.

A history of the campus will now be carefully preserved, with the hopes of putting it on display for all to see.

“This is like a gold mine, we are just so excited,” Callahan said.

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The Burns Tower is currently being renovated and will serve as a student welcome center. In addition to being the state’s first chartered school, UOP was also the first to admit women.

Elizabeth Klinge