Dreams – never too late to be realized
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photos courtesy of Chris Dudley
Castle Pines resident Chris Dudley always knew he wanted to be a firefighter. “It was the easiest life choice I’ve ever made,” Dudley said about his decision to become a firefighter at 41 years young. He has been a firefighter at Castle Rock Fire Station 153 for more than three years.
Having been a CrossFit coach, personal trainer and self-described “food-centric” person who is very nutrition minded, Dudley said, “Becoming a firefighter translated perfectly because, like CrossFit, it is all functional fitness, lifting things with a purpose. I enjoy the physical part of the work, working with my hands, using my body for something constructive.”
Dudley is a Colorado native and his mom is still in the Centennial house he grew up in. Dudley served in the Navy for 10 years and was an electrician on the USS West Virginia missile submarine for part of that time. His nuclear engineering education made it easy to get a job outside of the Navy in biotechnology sales and management, which he did for 14 years.
Dudley found himself at a crossroads a few years ago. After being laid off, Dudley attended a job fair where he saw a representative from the Thornton Fire Department. “I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter,” Dudley told the representative who responded, “Do it!” Dudley left the job fair and registered for EMT school immediately.
After the fire academy, Dudley was offered jobs at all three fire stations he had applied to, but he chose Castle Rock. Within his first few months as a firefighter, Dudley delivered a baby on a front lawn, which he said, “was terrifying,” and was part of a team that rescued a horse that had become trapped in mud up to its neck. The 1,200-pound horse was pulled out with a harness and pulley system the crew created. The successful rescue made international news.
Dudley brings his CrossFit background to work as the fitness coach who creates the training for the firefighting crew. “I make it fire oriented and every workout is different; we’ve never done the same one twice,” Dudley said. The firefighters have annual physical fitness tests and are held to a high standard. In addition to the workouts at the fire station, Dudley and his wife Sheera built a fitness rig in their backyard for at-home workouts.
Dudley said he feels very fortunate to be doing what he loves. “Follow happy, not money. Life is short and you only get one swing at it. That’s the mantra I’ve tried to live by the last few years. Follow your happiness.”