GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - From an early age, 32-year-old Derek Trombetta knew he wanted to become a firefighter.
"It's hard to find a little boy who doesn't want to become one," Trombetta said. "But I still feel like that little boy."
It's an opportunity to help people - from small things (like waiving at a little kid from the truck) to extreme things (like saving property or lives) - and Trombetta said it's also a way for him to support Grand Junction, a place he loves to call home.
"The number one reason I became a firefighter was to give back to the community," he said. "Most firefighters test all over the place (to get a job), but I always wanted to be a Grand Junction firefighter.
"It encompasses who I am," he added. "We do things most people don't do every single day."
Being hardworking and motivated, plus physically and mentally fit, are all important aspects of being a firefighter, Trombetta said. Plus, there's a brotherhood felt between men and women in the department that's unique to the job.
"Major life events are shared," he said. "It's not just a job. It's a life."
And that feeling carries over into every other aspect of Trombetta's life, who also manages his own fitness-coaching business and regularly enters national-level Men's Physique (overall fitness) competitions.
"It does take time," Trombetta said of his other fitness-oriented interests. "It doesn't feel like work though because I really, really like it. You don't have to (do it). You get to (do it). I approach fitness as a privilege. It's something that everyone should have in their lives."
When Trombetta isn't working shifts at Fire Station 3, he's working with up to 20 people through 970 Muscle, his "results-based training systems" program. He also said he's coaching groups at Lincoln Park while he works to secure a fitness home base (one is currently in the works), and he writes fitness plans and articles for people living around the country.
Coaching is a team effort, Trombetta said, and it's something he's been doing since his days at Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University). He also takes his personal fitness routine very seriously, using his own body as a "vessel to show other people what determination does."
In fact, fitness is something that has been integral to Trombetta as far back as he remembers. As a 5-year-old, doing push-ups, sit-ups and leg lifts were just part of his daily routine, and he said he'd ask Santa for protein powder.
"I haven't missed a week in the gym since (fifth grade)," Trombetta added. "You couldn't keep me out of that place."
Trombetta attributes his early interest in athletics and nutrition to his healthy, active family. Even so, he acknowledged that his desire to train as a youngster was definitely unique.
"At an early age, I saw that if you work really hard, you get results," and applying "discipline, drive and determination" have always played a big role in his life.
"The only way people fail is when they stop," he said.
Trombetta - who was born and raised in Grand Junction - also noted that society and one's surroundings have a big impact on one's lifestyle. He said he'll always return to the valley because it embodies so much of what he values.
"There's nice, good people here," he said, "and there are so many (outdoorsy) things to do."
Plus, Trombetta's family lives here - from parents to grandparents, a sister, aunts, uncles and his French bulldog (aptly named Lil' Diesel). And having that sense of place is very important to him.