As a firefighter, one gets to know well the neighbourhoods and people in their community.
And Colwood Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Greg Chow knows them better than most, with 38 years under his belt. He began in 1982 as a fresh-faced 16-year-old volunteer, and since 2000 he’s been a full-time professional firefighter.
“I like to say I won the lottery when I got hired on,” Chow says. Asked what he enjoys most about his work, he is quick to reply:
“That sense of giving back to the community and helping out at the time people need it most,” he says. “When you get that call and you help somebody or save somebody, save their property, that feels good. Knowing that we’ve done a good job and protected the community as well as we could over the years (is satisfying).”
Firefighting and defending the community runs in the family. Chow’s father, Alec, joined the department as a volunteer in the 1950s, and two uncles also served. A third uncle, Harry Chow, served on the department’s board of trustees and was mayor of Colwood from 1987 to 1993.
Greg Chow has been married more than 30 years and has two grown daughters, aged 27 and 24. Neither has expressed a desire to get into firefighting, but “if they wanted to, I would fully support them,” he says.
Looking back on his career, Chow still remembers his first call, a house fire where he and other junior firefighters were assigned hose-pulling duties. His first time entering a structure fire came at age 18, when he joined former fire chief Russ Cameron on the hose line.
Supporting volunteers – teaching the next generation of firefighters – has been key during his time with the department and as he moved up the ladder. After being hired full-time in 2000, he was promoted to captain in 2002 and became assistant chief in charge of training in 2015.
Now, when not heading out to a fire scene, he serves the City of Colwood and its residents in more of an administrative role, representing the department with the Capital Region Emergency Services Telecommunications (CREST) and acting as a liaison when technical issues arise. The longtime tech fan jokes that he is “the computer guy” at home.
Like other firefighters, he keeps the pager close when in town to ensure a fast response. Enjoying a true holiday, then, means getting out of town and he loves to travel. Chow caught “the cruising bug” some years back, to the point where he now operates a cruise tour business on the side. He hopes public health orders loosen next year to allow cruising to resume.
His advice for people eyeing firefighting in a volunteer role or as a profession?
“If they’re looking to get into it, follow their dream,” he says. “It is a very rewarding line of work and career. It takes time to get in, and it’s not for everybody, but I would not trade it in for the world.”
Assistant Chief Greg Chow is our Local Hero of the Year.
Nominations for the 2022 Local Hero Awards West Shore open on Feb. 25. To learn more, go to hero.goldstreamgazette.com.
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