COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- One Colorado Springs Fire Department firefighter and trainer found himself in a position he'd never been in before over the weekend. The Birdseye Fire, sparking just north of Peyton, slowly crept near the home of Captain Josh Winter.
Naturally, many questions ran through his mind:
“Is my family packed up, is my family prepared, do we have the dogs," Captain Winter listed. "Do we have a plan of how we’re gonna get out and how we’re gonna go.”
Smoke billowed up and could be seen over the trees.
“I had to step out of knowing I wasn’t gonna be the one to go there and do the work.”
Winter has been with CSFD for twenty years. Over the last year, he's taken up an in-house position within the department, training firefighters to combat everything from structural fires to wildland fires through the department's specialty wildland program.
However, this means that when there's a fire, he stays behind. Even when the fire is near his home, where his wife and children stay.
“I think I’m still processing what that means to do this job, train people to do what we do, and then in a way almost feel somewhat helpless," Winter admits.
The Birdseye Fire started on Friday and was 100% contained by Sunday afternoon, allowing families within its two-mile mandatory evacuation radius to return home.
Winter's family was ultimately able to stay put, narrowly missing the evacuation zone, but had things taken a turn for the worse, he says he trusted his crew and the other agencies to complete the job efficiently.
He says this job is about completing the "mission," which he lists as "life safety, incident stability, and property conservation."
From fighting fires to training those who do, Captain Winter says it all comes down to one thing while he stays behind.
"Over the training that we do, the experiences that we have … we really learn to trust each other," Winter said
Winter says wildfires are no longer a seasonal concern, but a year-round issue. He says the best way to keep your home protected is to be mindful of dry vegetation, clear gutters of pine needles and other debris, keep furniture a distance from the outside of your home, and always have an evacuation plan.
Captain Winter and other members of the Colorado Springs Fire Department talk this, along with other issues such as mental health and other subjects outside of firefighting and training on their podcast, The Kitchen Table Podcast. To listen, click here.