While he was protecting lives and property near Los Angeles, his own house was burning near Sacramento.
A firefighter battling the flames down south can truly feel the pain of those who lost their homes in that fire -- that's because he lost his too.U.S. Forest Service Firefirefighter Robert Crowder was sleeping Sunday afternoon, after working one long overnight shift at the Station Fire in Southern California when he got a call on his cell phone from his roommate who said their house was on fire.
The roommate, who is also a firefighter on his day off, was running for his life.
"I said, 'What? Is this a joke?' Then I could hear the helicopter he flies on, the 514, fly over his head. I'm like, 'Oh, he's not joking,'" said Crowder.
Back at Crowder's neighborhood in the Sierra Foothill community of Auburn, a devastating, wind-whipped fire was ripping through subdivisions. By the time it was over, the 29-year-old's home was one of 63 reduced to ashes. Even his prized 1964 Chevy Nova was no more.
"Yeah, I'd seen my house. I'd seen the car. It's like down to nothing," said Crowder. "I've seen house burn before, plenty of times, but to see my own stuff happen, that puts a whole new twist on things."
All Crowder has left is the fire bag he took with him to the Southern California fire.
"That's all I have have. There's nothing left," said Crowder.
The seven-year veteran knew the dry field bordering his subdivision was a disaster waiting to happen.
"I knew there was potential. I never thought it would be me. But now it is," said Crowder.
Interestingly, Crowder is actually glad he was away when his house burned down. Otherwise it would have been him and his engine responding.
"If I was there, knowing that my house was going to go, that would be tougher. I'd rather be where I was," said Crowder.
Crowder has insurance and is on his way to getting back on his feet. But he says that next house he sees go up in flames, he'll better understand their pain.