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Fire chief enjoys dual careers of helping

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Ian Gow must have been predestined to help people who are having really bad days. Gow has two jobs that deal with human trauma and there isn’t a better man for the position when emergency care is critically needed. Gow is currently fire chief for the Placer Hills Fire District. He maintains an office at Station 84 in Meadow Vista and oversees Fire Station 86 in Weimar and Fire Station 85 in Applegate. The territory he is responsible for is a combination of rugged forestland and rural residential neighborhoods. The district begins to the east almost to Canyon Way near Colfax and ends down the hill at Dry Creek Road, covering approximately 35 square miles. Gow is responsible for eight full-time employees, 15 part-time employees, 10 volunteer fire personnel and five volunteers who are currently in training. What most people don’t know is Gow is also a registered nurse and nurse practitioner, and originally moved to the area in 1981 to attend graduate school at the University of California, Davis. His field of choice is working in the emergency room and along with his fire chief duties, those chores add up to a 60-hour work week. Yet Gow still manages a couple of weekend shifts a month at Sutter Roseville in the emergency room as a nurse practitioner. “Being a nurse practitioner is what got me here at the fire station. Back in the ’80s the department was looking for volunteers with medical backgrounds and in 1984 I was asked to join,” Gow said. Over the years he progressed through the ranks as a volunteer and was promoted to fire chief in 1994 while still a volunteer. As the area’s growth and call volume increased, Gow became the first paid fire chief in the district in 2002, a position he still holds. “Being a firefighter is the best job in the world. Every incident we go on people are glad and grateful to see us,” Gow said. “It’s wonderful to make a living and be able to help people and that’s what we do every day.” Gow believes that his two careers, nursing and firefighting, utilize a particular set of skills and similar personality types. “Nurses and firefighters are can-do people. Give them an unusual problem and they can solve it and make it better. It’s the ability to bring calmness to chaos, that’s what firefighters and nurses do,” he said. “Over the last 15 years, the complexity and number of incidents has risen exponentially and one of the biggest accomplishments the fire department has made is the addition of 24-hour staffing, including paramedic service, at the Meadow Vista and Weimar fire stations,” Gow said. The three stations in the district run about 1,000 calls a year with about 70 percent being medical emergencies. The difference a few minutes can make on a medical call or fire is tremendous. “It’s a remarkable level of care to be able to provide to the area,” Gow said. Gow lives in Weimar with his wife, Jerrilyn, his daughter, Rebecca, and son, Niall.