Fire chief marks 40 years

Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan.

Keizer Fire District Chief Jeff Cowan marked his 40th year in the public safety field this week. 

The Oregon-native began his career as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) on March 17, 1981 in Oregon City with Willamette Falls Ambulance. He eventually achieved his Oregon Paramedic Certification in 1983 and his National Registry Paramedic Certification in 1984. 

 When he began in 1981, calling 9-1-1 and EMS were new ideas at the time. Fire departments didn’t embrace ambulance services and emergency patient care at first. Paramedic standards of patient care were developing while new advanced surgical skills were required. 

Working in Portland during the 1980s, racial tensions, drug use, and police clashes were common. In 1985, Cowan was hired in Kitsap County, Wash. 

Cowan in 1984

In Washington, Cowan served in the fire service for 23 years and progressed through the ranks of lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, and assistant chief. He returned to Oregon landing in Keizer in 2008 to serve as the fire chief. Cowan’s career saw technology advancements such as digital electronic communications, GPS mapping, and better diagnostic equipment and procedures.

“As you can imagine, all the historical events that spanned 1981-2021 and there were wars, 9/11, pandemics, conflagrations, fires, and tragedies,” Cowan recalled.

“In my career, I have always been part of a team of rescuers that were there to make things better. While I have memories that span decades, it is the people I served with and for, that give me the most satisfaction. We were always there to help.”  

Cowan began his career at the age of 19. He has three college degrees; a paramedic degree, a fire science degree, and one in management and administration. He remains a licensed paramedic. Cowan has served as a chief fire officer since 1997.  

Cowan says being a Dad is still his best achievement. He has raised three grown sons, Julius, Bret, and Ryan. He and two of his sons reside in Keizer.