This article was originally published in the Sopris Sun on October 15, 2015.
Rob Goodwin first saved the life of another kid when he was a young boy, and he was hooked. It was a hot summer day in Carbondale and he was watching some neighborhood boys play in a fast-moving ditch. One of them wasn’t a very strong swimmer and he got sucked into the current. Realizing that this situation required immediate and decisive action, Rob jumped in and pulled the boy to safety. Little did he know at such a young age, but his career path was chosen in that ditch.
He started by being a Good Samaritan on what was then known as “Killer 82”. Colorado State Route 82 was a two-lane road back then, and travelling between Glenwood Springs and Aspen was a dangerous prospect in all weather conditions. Rob often found himself as the first person on scene at the site of a wreck. He quickly learned that he had a passion for this work and decided to start volunteering with the department in 1987. He worked his way up the ladder, and ultimately became only the second paid employee after Chief Ron Leach. Officially he’s the “Ops Chief” which must be shorthand for “involved in everything from running a fire crew, an ambulance crew, a wildfire stakeout, swift-water rescue, or back country search, to assisting with the training course of new volunteers”.
Rob is one of those rare individuals who devote countless hours to helping his fellow citizens. As the deputy fire chief for the Carbondale Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) he helps to manage both paid staff and over 75 volunteers in a fire department that covers some 320 square miles in three counties.
His motto is: “There is no substitute for good judgment and common sense.” And he should know. He’s had plenty of experience. Like that day in July 1994 when he was called upon to assist with fire fighting efforts in what would come to be known as the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain. Fourteen fire fighters lost their lives battling a blaze that literally jumped over the Colorado River and Interstate 70. Rob was commanding a post in West Glenwood when the winds picked up and started shooting fireballs at them. There were homeowners stranded up the canyon who failed to heed the evacuation order. Faced with a decision to leave them to their own efforts or send a crew on a potentially life-threatening mission, he acted decisively and sent his people up for the rescue. All of them got out alive, and minutes later they were forced to abandon the post. There’s no substitute for good judgment, common sense…and a little bit o’ luck!
Rob Goodwin is a true hero and a Carbondale treasure!