Working as a firefighter may seem more hazardous than ever this summer, but Brandon Evans couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“When I was in high school, I was part of this work study program where you spend half the day in school, half the day at the job,” Evans says. “At my high school, you could spend half the day at a fire department. That’s how I got sort of interested in the fire world. I’ve always been kind of curious about it.”
As a kid, he could also see himself wrestling with reptiles like the late Steve Irwin. “All the way through college, I studied biology and everything, thinking I could still figure out how to wrestle alligators, but it turns out that’s not what people do,” he says.
Living in Michigan, Evans would actually take up his family’s work as funeral director. During this time, he met the future love of his life, Sarah, a raft guide from Chaffee County. He decided to come out to Buena Vista with Sarah and apply at the same rafting company.
As a raft guide, his new environment began to grow on him. “I realized how cool this place was, and I didn’t want to go back to Michigan,” he says.
Before long, he would be living in Buena Vista, now married to Sarah. He stuck with raft guiding for 3 years before calling it good.
Soon after moving, Evans found a new career path in a callback from his past.
“I was driving by the fire department, and they had a sign outside that said, ‘Volunteer today.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ I walked in literally wearing flipflops and super long hair. Our chief gave me this really weird look, but he let me volunteer,” he says.
This decision led Evans into “a pretty incredible journey.”
Getting to help people in need is rewarding on its own, but it’s just the icing on the cake. Firefighting also supplies a host of learning experiences and new things to see. Even while out on wildfire calls, Evans gets to see many amazing places.
“But there’s kind of two sides to one coin,” he explains. “If somebody calls 911, they’re having a not-good time. Your challenge is to figure out what’s happening with them and how you can help them. The stress level’s kind of elevated. The challenges are numerous because there could be somebody who’s sick or injured, or some building’s on fire. That’s what makes it interesting. You never know when the pager goes off what it’s going to be. You’ve got to be prepared for all of those things.”
Has work increased due to the wildfires this summer?
“People think that, but it’s not above normal yet,” he says. “Yes, there’ve been some big fires. Yes, there was Weston Pass which is really close to here. The fire danger was high, but it’s not above average yet … We got close to average fast, and the fire danger is high, higher than normal, and our snowpack was low which is a dangerous mix. But wildfires are a fact of nature. Our call volume is on par with average for the last year or so.”
No single day as a firefighter sticks out for Evans. While some moments are more mundane, plenty of other experiences will stick with him for the rest of his life.
“I’m definitely looking to further my education in the fire service, get more advanced medical training and go on more wildfires … get more qualifications so I’m able to do more things,” he says.
And perhaps one day, he and Sarah will buy a house and have children of their own.