Palmer Lake native Bob Schroeder never traveled much before he joined the Pike Hotshots 10 years ago. Now, he spends five months every year battling blazes coast to coast as part of the 20-member, Monument-based elite wildfire-fighting crew, a unit of the U.S. Forest Service.
Starting May 10, the Hotshots are on standby 24/7, ready to go any place in the United States where a major wildfire might break out. The work has taken Schroeder to 15 states and to Canada. In 1998, while combating disastrous fires in Florida, he and fellow crewmembers met President Clinton.
Schroeder, 41, has also been a Palmer Lake volunteer firefighter for 17 years. "It's kind of in the blood," he says. "My dad was on the Fire Department, my uncles. I just kind of grew up with that. It was exciting."
He's never been injured or in imminent danger. "What brings me back every year is the teamwork on the crew. We definitely watch out for each other."
With already parched conditions, Schroeder fears he and his team are in for a long summer. "It's not looking good," he says. He doesn't expect to see much of his 5-year-old daughter or his partner until the fire season is over. "I've already told my better half, 'See you in October.'"