Brian Welch could have chosen to help people as a police officer or a doctor, or by another profession, but only one career felt right – firefighter.
“There’s plenty of ways I could help people, but this is the one that makes the most sense to me,” he says. “I feel comfortable helping people this way.”
Searching for a job in northern Michigan with no success, Welch was eventually contacted by a friend from college. His friend, living in central Colorado, asked for help with his new business.
“He knew that I didn’t have a job and I held a chainsaw for about 5 minutes of my life, and that’s where I started,” said Welch. “I came out here and managed his tree cutting service for a number of years.”
Welch had moved out to Buena Vista in March 2002. In April of that year, he also took up work as a volunteer firefighter at Chaffee County Fire Protection District. In July 2006, he was promoted to fire inspector.
In this position, he is responsible for all fire inspections in commercial properties. He also plans reviews for new commercial construction and subdivisions, and runs through public education on in-home evaluations of safety plans, smoke alarms and fire mitigation evaluations and gives recommendations on being fire-wise.
Every day brings something new and unexpected, from fire calls, inspections and training to other tasks.
“If it was the same thing every day, I wouldn’t be able to do it,” he says. “It’s not in my nature. I like it when the days are broken up with new and different tasks.”
While calls vary, fire inspections are usually simple and monotonous thanks to many of the business owners already being very familiar with the fire code.
“When I go and do the fire inspections, they’re all pretty much up to speed,” he says. “There’re a lot of proactive business owners that keep things on the up and up. They make that part of my job very easy and boring, which is nice.”
Welch really enjoys working as a firefighter, even through the challenges. Indeed, not every task ends so simply.
“For every person and house we save from a wildfire, for every house fire that we saved with minimal damage, there’s always the exact opposite,” he says. “There’s people who die and can’t be saved, there’s houses that can’t be saved. There’s hard parts to it. For everything that makes me smile, there’s always something to even out the playing field and make you question, ‘Is this the right job for me?’ There’s always a dark side to everything. Police, fire, EMS – there’s always stuff that makes it hard, and it’s always different for every person.”
In addition to calls that end successfully, Welch loves days when he gets to visit schoolchildren and preschoolers and tell them about firefighting and fire safety. The kids will talk about wanting to be police officers, firefighters, doctors and the like. “Little kids make you feel good when you’re a firefighter and a police officer,” he says.
When he’s not working with his fellow firefighters, Welch is helping his wife look after their farm, The Crowded Acre. The farm consists of cattle, 50 or 60 pigs, two dogs, barn cats, ducks, chickens and goats.
“My wife wanted to get a goat, and I said absolutely not,” he says. “So, we got a few chickens. It’s a gateway animal. We went from a few chickens to everything that we have now.”
Farm work takes a fair amount of time, especially when dealing with animals that just want to break out. Much like firefighting, each day is a new adventure.
“I think like most farmers, I’m a softy for the babies,” Welch adds. “Anytime there’s new piglets or a new calf … it’s more time, more work, more money, but it’s pretty cute.”
Jen Welch also runs The Bearded Lady on East Main Street, where they sell their own meat – mainly pork, but they may put more beef on the menu next year.
Pork is not quite how most people expect it, Welch explains. Often, people like to look for the lean, low-fat pork in stores. The pigs he and his wife slow-grow at their farm, however, contain the good kind of fat that helps the pork taste better. “It takes a lot more space and a lot more time, but we get a much better profit than the stuff you find in the store.”
Aside from spending more time with his kids and more time outdoors, he’s happy with where his life is and doesn’t feel the need to set more goals.
“I really enjoy my life, and I’m not working to make it better,” he says.