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Firefighter's home burns while on duty

September 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
U.S. Forest Service Fire firefighter, 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 that were 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 houses burn before, plenty of times, but to see my own stuff happen, it puts a whole new twist in things.

All Crowder has left is the fire bag he took with him to the Southern California fire.

"That's all I have. There's nothing left," said Crowder.

The 7-year-verteran 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 way tougher," said Crowder. "I'd rather be where I was."

Crowder has insurance and is on his way to getting back on his feet. He says that the next house he sees go up in flames while on the job, he'll have a better understanding of their pain.

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