KERSEY, Colo. - If you would ever describe a fire or a fight as "all consuming," especially after last summer, Barrett Fisher would most likely say you are right.
Fisher, a firefighter for the Platte Valley Fire Protection District in Kersey, is described by his fellow firefighters as one of the hardest working firefighters they know.
"I know this is his passion," Platte Valley Operations Division Chief David Carpenter said.
Fisher fought wildfires last summer, including the High Park fire west of Fort Collins, the Flagstaff Fire near Boulder, and another wildfire in Wyoming.
A member of the Platte Valley Fire Protection District since 2009, his work ethic is beyond reproach, according to his bosses.
And ask his fellow firefighters why he was even at the firehouse on a day earlier this week, they'll tell you, there's a very special reason.
"On his worst day, he's still willing to be there for people," Captain Ryan Buderus said.
"We just didn't know what it was"
Fisher and his girlfriend Dela Vialpando, who both live in Milliken, have had plenty of tough days in the past few years.
Nearly two and a half years ago Fisher had just started a new career as a firefighter, yet, something was not right.
"I had abdominal pain. I had blood in my stool," Fisher said. "Then, [I was] going to the bathroom 10-12 times a day."
Tough, as any firefighter would be, Fisher said he waited too long to ask for help.
"We just kept thinking it was something that was going to go away or something that he ate that was all," Vialpando said.
The doctors eventually diagnosed Fisher with Ulcerative Colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that attacks your large intestine like it is a foreign object.
The pain, eventually got so bad after the High Park Fire last fall, surgery to remove his colon was the only option.
"A new normal"
Fisher now describes his life as a new normal.
He wears an ileostomy bag, after doctors removed his colon. His diet has changed drastically. He tires easily. Yet, he still has an attitude of perseverance.
"If I didn't know him, I wouldn't even know," Vialpando said. "But if you know someone that didn't have their arm or their leg or something you'd know the limitations they have."
And as tough as all that may be, the hardest part of all of this may be the bills from surgery sitting on the couple's dining room table.
Yet, you would never hear a word from Fisher about those issues back at the firehouse.
Even though, the work he's doing will not pay for his bills since he is working as a volunteer firefighter for Platte Valley.
"How he's going to pay for all this?" Carpenter said. "He doesn't have insurance."
His sickness has kept him from applying for full time work with Platte Valley.
But, working at the fire house, even without payment, even if just for a few hours a week is his continued way to pay it forward, to get back to that all consuming fight for his community.
"Hopefully, one day I'll get my dream fulfilled and become a career firefighter," Fisher said. "I believe it's a calling."
"This community needs people like him," Buderus said.
"If he can get that doctor's clearance," Carpenter said. "He'll pay it back 1,000 times over, in his service in his career."
Fisher is scheduled to have another surgery this summer to help his digestive issues.
And as much as his fellow firefighters at Platte Valley have helped, there is still a big need for his medical bills.
If you feel compelled, Fisher has set up a website to help.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)