Sunday Profile: A call to service for new Rifle-area fire chief
Fire service has been a life long love for Colorado River Fire Rescue Fire Chief Randy Callahan
For Randy Callahan, a career in the fire service was something he found early in life.
Pointing to a framed picture on his office wall of a 1956 Ford/Howe fire engine, Callahan explained that he, his brother and father all worked on the truck when he first began fighting fires in the suburbs of Detroit.
“My dad got me into this profession. He started as a volunteer, as did my brother and I, and we both turned it into a career,” Callahan said.
“That picture is a reminder of the beginnings.”
Callahan said those beginnings were inspired in part by both the honor and spontaneity found in the firefighting profession.
“You never know when you go out that door if you’re going to be back in five minutes, five hours, or 10 hours,” Callahan said.
“You work until the job’s done, and then you come back.”
After moving from Michigan to Fort Collins in 1994, Callahan went to work for the Poudre Fire Authority.
Callahan spent 23 years in Fort Collins before retiring.
“I thought I was done with the fire service, and that was not the case,” said Callahan who has served 43 years.
With years of service and knowledge Callahan couldn’t stay away from the fire service for long.
“He will forget more than I will ever know. He very much loves to pass along the knowledge he has and it brings a positive attitude to the workplace,” Colorado River Fire Rescue Operations Division Chief Leif Sackett said.
After he retired, he worked on the fire certification board and then with Boulder County Rural Fire before coming to Rifle at the beginning of 2019.
Callahan is now serving as Fire Chief for Colorado River Fire Rescue serving New Castle, Silt and Rifle. He initially came to the role temporarily in January after former Chief Rob Jones stepped down at the end of 2018. He said he’s extended his stay at the request of the board.
“I’ve made an 18 month commitment to stay, to finish up a project we started, we have a lot of good projects going on,” Callahan said.
Callahan oversees 55 career firefighters and around 30 volunteer firefighters covering an 850 square-mile area from Rifle to New Castle.
“Chief Callahan has been a godsend to us, he has taught us how to work well with one another. He has changed our thinking and views. He is so big on training and always giving us a lesson out of what we do and giving us a purpose,” Administrative Director PJ Tillman said.
“It has really made us a strong team.”
Colorado River Fire Rescue has four staffed stations including Station 41 and 43 in Rifle, Station 61 in Silt and Station 64 in New Castle. Colorado Fire also has Interagency Station 42 they share with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management fire agencies. A second station in New Castle, Station 63, is an unstaffed location.
“We are in a time business, our challenge when we are spread out like we are is once that bell rings, the window of opportunity closes on us,” Callahan said of the area CRFR covers.
“That’s why we have to get there, and is why we have the people and stations to do that.”
ITS ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE
Callahan said firefighting is about the people, from the firefighters to the citizens.
“Its all about the folks here in the fire station and in the community, CRFR and its community has a heart and soul, and it’s incredible,” Callahan said.
“I love that.”
Callahan said a great example of the character of the people of Colorado River Fire Rescue occurred recently when the firefighters organized an event to honor the fallen firefighters on Sept. 11.
He said as many firefighting companies that could came over to Station 41 and made their way up and down the stairs of the training tower in memory of the firefighters.
“It’s only a three-story training tower, but they all took turns climbing those stairs and ringing that bell 343 times,” Callahan said.
“That’s the heart and soul of people, and I love that,”
“When he says he is all about the people of CRFR, he truly means that. He has a passion for the fire service, a passion for people and he has a passion for the citizens of our district,” Sackett said.
“Its fun to work with him because you see that in how interacts with people and the department.”
When he is not working between fire stations or working to educate the community Callahan enjoys time with his wife Patsy and their two dogs.
“I’m blessed, my wife is a giant in my eyes, and she is the nicest, kindest person I’ve ever met,” Callahan said.
Callahan said he is a self-professed winter nut, and he and his wife love the outdoors.
“I love snowshoeing and skiing,” Callahan said.
Callahan mostly skis the backcountry because of the solitude of it, and he can take his dogs.
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