MOUNT VERNON — The fireman’s gear will be hung up. The locker will be cleaned out. No more alarms will be heeded.
When Christmas Day rolls around Sunday morning, it will be a time to celebrate for Barry Bowden. Not only will it be a chance for him to observe Christmas with his family, but it will be the end of the last shift he will be serving with the Mount Vernon Fire Department. The 23-year veteran of the MVFD will be officially retiring at 7 a.m. that day, ending a 30-year career in firefighting.
Bowden came to Mount Vernon in September 1988 after serving seven years on the College Township Fire Department in Gambier where he was assistant chief of the emergency squad and captain of the fire department. His stint at College Township was a volunteer position. He also worked at the CSX Railroad during this time as a heavy equipment operator.
Positions Bowden has held at the MVFD have been a firefighter EMT, intermediate EMT, lieutenant and now captain since 2000. Bowden noted that he is one of three current shift captains currently on staff which came from College Township. Others moving on to Mount Vernon are Capt. Dave Mills and Capt. Joe Jurkowitz.
“It’s a very rewarding career. Every day is different. I really enjoyed the interaction with the men ... the camaraderie with the guys and their families,” said Bowden. “The challenge of the work itself is the problem-solving that we do. Some problems are bigger than others.”
One difference Bowden has seen over the years on staff is the workload. “The sheer volume of calls has increased so much since I started,” said Bowden. “When I started, we averaged around four calls per day. Our call volume is now roughly 13 to 14 calls per day. We’ve had close to 5,000 calls this year.”
New technology is another main difference Bowden sees in his job today.
The “Life Packs” and heart monitors are what he says make a big difference in how they can effectively do their job. Proper training has become vital for firefighters and paramedics today also. “We have some really good people. Their level of expertise is extraordinary,” said Bowden. “They’re really good at patient care and patient evaluation.”