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Dave’s Friend is a High Park Fire Firefighter’s Wife [Interview]

The High Park fire in Colorado is affecting many, many people. Including the spouses of the nearly 2,000 firefighters battling the blaze. I have an old friend-Cindy- her husband Mark is one of those fighting to bring the fire under control.

I sat down with Cindy to talk about being a firefighter’s wife.

Come in and gain a little insight to what it’s like!

The Lyons

My friend Cindy Lyons is great:  She’s a super mom, has a good job and a husband who’s one of the heroes helping our community by fighting the High Park Fire here in Northern Colorado.  I sat down with her to discuss her husband, Mark Lyons, being a firefighter.

How long has Mark been a firefighter?

18 years. He LOVES it.  He works for the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority (formally the Loveland Fire Department) at Loveland’s station house #3 (near Walt Clark Middle School).

How many firefighters does Loveland have?

Loveland has 60 full-time firefighters, along with 12 part-time and 20 volunteers.  The part-time guys and volunteers have the same training as the full-time guys, it’s just that they like their current day-jobs more, or are waiting for full-time positions to open.  Mark is a lieutenant at house #3.   Each shift usually consists of  two guys, but they’ve been lucky at house #3 in recent months and have a had a part-time firefighter for each shift most of the time.

How many guys from Loveland are fighting the High Park Fire?

Including Mark, there are three. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but with 24-hour shifts and only so many guys in Loveland, they have to keep the Loveland station houses staffed.

Has Mark ever been injured fighting a fire? Have you ever asked him not to go?

Not once in 18 years has Mark been injured. The only time I had reservations about him going to a fire was in 2000. That’s when the Bobcat Fire was happening- we had only been married for about six months!  But it wasn’t like the High Park Fire- where Mark is ‘deployed‘ (meaning he goes to the fire and STAYS for 14 days or until the fire is out- whichever comes first)- with the Bobcat Fire, he would go work the fire and come home at night.

I do worry about his safety, but he just loves what he does, and he’s great at it, so I just have faith that he will be okay. I married a fireman-it’s part of the deal!

Has Mark ever been ‘deployed’ to a fire before?

He went out a couple of years ago for a 14-day deployment- he was all over: Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada- wherever they could put him. He loved it.

So what have Mark’s days been consisting of at High Park?

They get up at 5am for breakfast. At 6am they get their duties for the day. Mark has mostly been one of the guys working the Poudre Canyon, protecting structures and making sure everything that’s green stays alive.   At 8pm, it’s dinner then bed. Mark has his own tent and gear, so he’s comfortable.

Curious: Does Mark get any extra pay for working the wildfire?

No. If he’s working a fire on what would be a working day for him anyway-it’s standard pay. The days that he works when he would normally be off, he does get time and 1/2- so technically, he IS getting paid extra since he’s been up there over 10 days!

How close is their base camp to the fire?

They’re far enough away that they are safe, it’s just the smoke that worries me. I saw someone at Wal-Mart in Loveland wearing a mask and thought “This is just SOME smoke! Mark is AT the fire with ALL of the smoke!”

How often do you communicate with Mark?  Have you been able to see him?

Two texts a day- once in the morning and once at night- they’re pretty short- “hard work; we’re making progress….”.  He’s a busy firefighter!

Me, Natalie (5) and Trevor (10) did get to see Mark at their base camp on Father’s Day for about 15 minutes. It was short, but nice-

Mark Lyons with Natailie and Trevor
Mark Lyons with Natalie and Trevor

How have the kids been taking Mark being away but so close, on such a big fire?

They are so proud!  The other day Natalie told her friends: “My dad is on a really important fire”- so cute!  Trevor has been dad’s helper while he’s away- He came inside after being out for a while and said: “Well, I got the lawn mowed”- he’s 10- I didn’t even ask him to do that.  We had all gone camping the weekend the fire started. Mark drove the camper up and set up camp on that Friday. Then he had to go to work the fire. I don’t know how to do ANY of the camper stuff! Trevor stepped up and got the camper ready for Grandpa to tow down, then helped Grandpa get the hitch on! Trevor wants to be a fireman too- like his dad, and Mark’s dad.

The kids are wonderful.

And how are you?

Well, with Mark being a fireman, he does get a lot of time off during the week, which helps with taking care of the kids.  For example, we usually only have to get day-care 7-10 days of each month- how awesome is that!  So now, with Mark being deployed to work the fire, I’ve been getting a LOT of help: From my family, friends, co-workers..etc, to help watch the kids and keep them entertained- Mom still has to work!

What was great was how the Fire Chief for Loveland Fire Rescue Authority sent me a letter thanking our family for the sacrifice while Mark is fighting the High-Park Fire:  ‘… for all your efforts during the time of this fire and other emergencies, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to you and let you know that as an organization, we are grateful to the support that you continue to provide.’ – That was very nice!  They even sent flowers!

When does Mark come back? Do you have any plans for his return?

Mark’s 14-day deployment ends Monday! I can’t wait- but I’ll be at work when he gets home, so he’ll probably just crash the whole day- then we’ll all go out to dinner- since Mark usually does all the cooking- I won’t make him cook Monday!  Ha!

What tricks do you use to get all his clothes clean after working that big of a fire?

No trick needed at all!  Mark leaves for work in his regular clothes, then changes into different clothes before getting his fire-suit on. The station handles all those DIRTY clothes- it’s great!

Will you please tell Mark that we’re all thankful and grateful for all the work he and the other firefighters are doing up there?

Thanks Dave, will do! He’s totally amazing!

Dave Jensen/Cindy Lyons
Dave Jensen/Cindy Lyons

 

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