From Backwards K's to the Backwoods: Catching up with Collin Jones
Written by Blake Froistad
With an off-speed that would buckle your knees, and a fastball to keep you honest, it's no wonder Collin Jones still holds the all-time strikeout record in Valor Baseball history with 149 K's. Upon graduating from Valor in 2011, Collin went on to pitch for Hastings College. However, arm troubles set in, which forced him to hang up the cleats, and he finished out his college days at Colorado State University.
The mental and physical toughness he developed during his time on the mound led him to pursue a career with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, or "DFPC" for short. The organization's primary focus is providing wildfire suppression and management for all of Colorado. DFPC is unique in that they also provide All-Hazard response which includes structure fire, EMS, technical rescue, search & rescue, and more. So what's it like being on the frontlines of an active burn? Collin summed it up like this: "Wildfire incidents can be long, slow days digging hand-line, cutting saw-line, and patrolling the fire edge. These long, slow days are often met with the opposite: Chaotic and fast paced situations involving large burn-outs, working with heavy machinery and aviation equipment, and trying to contain the most active parts of a fire are situations we often find ourselves in."
Collin specifically works on the James Peak Module, outside of Black Hawk, Colorado. The hand crew responds to wildfire incidents throughout the state and nationally. They also provide Structure Fire and EMS response alongside the Timberline Fire Protection District in Gilpin County. During his time with DFPC, he has been on the frontlines of some of Colorado's worst offenders such as Cameron Peak, East Troublesome, Cal-Wood, and Marshall fires. Beyond that, when conditions worsen, Collin's crew will assist on a national level when regions are in high demand for resources. "There is nothing like being on wildfire incidents and having the ability to see and experience places most people will never go."
The glamour of being in the backwoods and sleeping under the stars can also give way to the reality of being in harsh conditions and away from loved ones for over 2 weeks at a time. With the average wildfire season lasting 2 months longer than it ever has before, firefighters also have to fight against being burned out themselves. He credits lessons learned in his high school days, such as brotherhood, selflessness, work ethic and humility, to help get him through tough assignments. When the smoke clears and there is time to reflect, "We do what we can to make sure people are safe, and get home to their families. The trials, sacrifices, adrenaline, and brotherhood with your crew, is something few get to experience and can never be replaced."
If you're reading this and want to find out more about a career in wild-land fire, feel free to reach out to Collin for details. Thank you to all our men and women who are first responders. May you continue to have great valor as you venture in, while others are going out.