The Hidden Battle of Wildfires: PTSD in Wildfire Responders

We’re excited to bring you another gripping episode of All Things Wildfire, where we dive deep into the world of wildfire mitigation and mental health in firefighting. This week, host OP Almaraz is joined by Steve Orr, a seasoned firefighter and paramedic with decades of frontline experience. Tune in to discover transformative insights and actionable strategies to protect both your property and your well-being.

Joining us today is a seasoned veteran in the field, with over 22 years at West Metro Fire Rescue in Lakewood, Colorado. As a firefighter, lieutenant, paramedic, and wildfire mitigation specialist, our guest brings a wealth of experience. He holds numerous NWCG qualifications and has been actively involved in wildfire assignments across the Western US for the past 15 years. A committed member of both the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network and Fire Adapted Colorado, he has also contributed as a Training and Network Specialist for FACO. During this tenure, he served on the Community Mitigation Assistance Team and as an instructor for Community Wildfire Mitigation Best Practices. Currently, he is enhancing community safety as a Community Risk Reduction Specialist with Boulder Fire-Rescue. Sit back, relax, and arm yourself with knowledge as we explore how to safeguard against disaster with our expert guest.

Wildfire Experiences and Lessons:

Steve discusses his firsthand experiences with destructive fires, such as the Black Forest fire in 2013 and the High Park fire in 2012. These experiences deeply influenced his interest in wildfire mitigation and the implementation of strategies to protect communities from similar disasters.

Wildfire Mitigation Strategies:

Steve details various strategies and practices adopted over the years, such as managing wildland training and equipment, emphasizing the importance of noncombustible building materials, and improving community awareness and preparedness. He highlights significant challenges and successes in altering community and firefighter perceptions regarding wildfire risks.

Financial Support and Industry Collaboration:

The episode touches on the availability of grants and financial support for homeowners looking to make their properties more defensible against wildfires. Steve also discusses collaborations with various industry groups to align mitigation strategies and insurance policies.

Mental Health in Firefighting:

A substantial part of the conversation is devoted to discussing the psychological impact of firefighting and witnessing destruction, emphasizing the importance of mental health support for first responders. Steve shares his personal experiences with PTSD, underlining the evolving understanding and destigmatization of mental health issues within the firefighting community.


  • Steve Orr’s extensive experience with wildland and urban firefighting and his transition into focusing on wildfire mitigation.
  • Discussion on the use of non-combustible materials in home construction and landscaping to prevent fire spread.
  • Emphasis on mental health, with personal anecdotes from Steve regarding the challenges faced by first responders and the importance of support systems.

Show Notes:

00:01:30;27 – 00:01:57;01: Career Background: Steve Orr shares the beginning of his fire service career, setting the stage for his expertise and insights into wildfire management.

00:03:33;10 – 00:04:11;04: Critical Wildfire Experiences: Steve discusses impactful experiences with destructive fires such as the Black Forest fire and the Waldo Canyon Fire, which were turning points in his focus on wildfire mitigation.

00:08:01;13 – 00:08:37;28: Awareness and Mitigation Efforts: Steve talks about the realization of the need for increased wildfire risk awareness and mitigation efforts in Colorado, particularly after observing similarities in conditions that led to massive destruction in other fires.

00:15:23;26 – 00:16:15;23: Practical Mitigation Strategies: This section covers specific, actionable strategies homeowners can employ to protect their homes from wildfires, focusing on noncombustible materials and structural modifications.

00:31:06;13 – 00:32;00;10: Mental Health Discussion: Steve opens up about his personal struggle with PTSD due to his firefighting career and discusses the broader issue of mental health among first responders, highlighting changes in perception and available support.

Whether you’re passionate about environmental sustainability, intrigued by technological advancements, or simply eager to learn about the latest developments in wildfire prevention, this episode is a must-listen.

Don’t miss out on this exclusive opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from one of the brightest minds in the field.

Steve Orr - All Things Wildfire

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