By Dawne Belloise
Melvin Seyfried has lived in Crested Butte since 2009, volunteering with the Crested Butte Fire Protection District (CBFPD) since January of 2014, and becoming a paid career firefighter in 2018.
This spring, he’s leaving town for a while to hang with his 18-year-old daughter Hannah who’s in high school in Spokane, Washington. Melvin also went to high school there and tells with a grin, “I did all my bad years there as a teenager.” He was born in Denver at the old University Hospital, “before they blew it up,” he says, referring to the demolition of that old building. When he was 10 years old, Melvin moved in with his beloved grandmother in McCook, Nebraska, mostly to escape his rough childhood while growing up with an abusive stepfather. However, he moved back to Thornton with his parents when he was 12.
Although he feels that his difficult family life situation contributed to making him a stronger person, he says, “I stayed away from home a lot. I’d go to friends’ houses. I was outdoors a lot.” As a young entrepreneur at 8 years old, Melvin and a friend started a lawn care business so they could stay out all day while making money. They called themselves Two Brothers Lawn Care. “We didn’t like being inside so we thought, let’s make some money so we can go get candy bars and sodas,” he laughs.
Once his grandmother signed him up for sports teams, those activities became his outlet. He especially enjoyed playing baseball. “I felt like that was what I was meant to do, play sports and be an athlete.” When he was in eighth grade, he moved with his parents and sister to Washington state. By then, he was used to the moving around a lot. “It didn’t faze me. I always had a small circle of friends.” Melvin played football, basketball and baseball throughout high school, and had fun going to bonfire parties in the woods.
Even though his stepfather wasn’t around for two-week stretches here and there because of his job as a truck driver, sports and school remained important escapes for Melvin. “Just to stay away from home,” he says. “I even chose ‘zero hour,’ which is a class you can sign up for that started before school actually started. I did that so I didn’t have to be home from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
After graduation, Melvin had no idea what he wanted to do next. “I was living with a good friend because my parents had moved back to Colorado. I chose to stay in Washington to finish school.” He also had his daughter in 2006 while he was in high school. He was only 17. “I was involved with her mom at the time.” But the summer after graduation, Melvin found himself homeless and living in his car. “I was being a bad kid. My aunt Cricket Brigham lived in Crested Butte and in June of 2009, I called her and said I need an out because I’m either going to end up in jail or dead.” His aunt bought him a one-way ticket to Denver. “I rode the bus up to Crested Butte. I moved here and I fell in love with it. I got a job at Clark’s, and I started that whole ski bum/bar lifestyle,” although he’s careful to clarify that he’s a boarder and has never skied a day in his life.
Melvin jumped right into the Crested Butte lifestyle, playing softball for the Talk and Pitas teams. He also became an assistant coach for local CBCS sports teams. Settling into Crested Butte, Melvin started to feel like it was time for him to grow up a bit. Fortuitously, a friend tipped him in the direction of the fire department. “My buddy, Taylor Reeves, introduced me to the fire department. He was volunteering and one day he brought me to the station and introduced me to the life of a volunteer with CBFPD. My grandma’s brother, who I was named after, had been a firefighter in Littleton, so the whole thing just clicked. The first step was to see Veronica Jarolimek to get the Red Book, which is a list of tasks you have to learn, all the basics that you need to be in the fire department. I went to six training sessions before I could get my gear, and then I had to keep going through the Red Book tasks.” When there was an opening on the roster in 2014, Melvin signed up. “I finally got my pager and that made it official. I was officially a full-fledged volunteer who could handle accidents, fire calls, CO2 calls and gas calls,” he smiles. In 2015 and 2016, Melvin won Crested Butte Firefighter of the Year, an award bestowed by his peers. Last year, he won the Chief’s Award, which is his proudest accomplishment: “It means the most to me of anything.”
Melvin is overwhelmingly grateful to his grandmother for the life lessons she’s taught him. “One of the biggest things that my grandmother taught me was the moral of treating women correctly. I felt like that is the foundation of this planet, the way we treat women. We wouldn’t be here without women,” he says with deep respect. Melvin met Marley, his wife, when they were both working at Clark’s. “She was working in produce, and I was in grocery at the time. The produce manager had asked me not to talk to her, so I walked right over and introduced myself and asked her out,” he grins. That was in June of 2021, “right in the middle of COVID. On the first date we connected, and it felt like it was meant to be,” he recalls. The couple married last September in Marley’s hometown of Lamar, Colorado on her grandmother’s farm.
Even though they’re leaving town in early May for Washington, Melvin confesses his love of living in Crested Butte. “I like to fish and be anywhere in Taylor Canyon. That’s how I clear my head. I like to ride my motorcycle there in the summer and hang out with my wife because she’s the biggest part of my life. It’s like anything in life, it’s the end of a chapter. I’m definitely going to miss it here but it’s time for the next chapter, however, this not a permanent move. Crested Butte is where my family is, so we’ll be back. The fire department and this community are my family. We’re just moving to be closer to my daughter, so I can be there for her for the rest of her high school career. And then we’ll move back. This is where our life is, this is our home.”