Assistant fire chief has been putting out fires for 33 years

Courtesy of the Jefferson City Fire Department: Assistant Chief Matt Bowden has been in his role for almost eight years. He's been a firefighter in Jefferson City for nearly 33 years.

Matt Bowden has been a firefighter for nearly 33 years.

It wasn't something he dreamed of doing as a child or anything like that.

Rather, he was convinced to join the Jefferson City Fire Department (JCFD) after visiting with his neighbor.

Bowden said his neighbor was a captain with the department. Bowden was intrigued by the unique schedule firefighters work and the benefits that come with the job. And though he hadn't sought out the profession before, one of his family members several generations back was once the chief of the JCFD.

That intrigue drove him to join the JCFD, where he's now an assistant chief.

"It quickly became very apparent this was what I needed to do," Bowden said. "This is without a doubt my forever home. If we'd had this conversation 20 years ago, it still would've been. And I've advanced as far as I care to. I'm happy to be where I'm at."

Come March, he'll have been with the department for 33 years. Eight years ago, Bowden became an assistant chief.

Including Bowden, there are three assistant chiefs in the department. Each one oversees a shift -- A, B or C. Bowden is the assistant chief for A shift.

This structure works well with the schedule firefighters at the JCFD work. Personnel work 48-hour shifts, then get 96 hours off. So Bowden works as assistant chief for 48 hours on A shift, then Jacob Holee takes over for 48 hours on B shift and Jay Niemeyer takes over the final 48-hour stretch for C shift.

Then the cycle repeats and Bowden is back on duty.

Bowden said he enjoys the 48/96 system, though it's only been in effect at the department for two or three years. He said shifts worked out the same mathematically before, but were structured differently.

"I think for the most part it's been well received. We opted for that schedule change, myself included. I don't mind the schedule at all," he said.

During his shifts, Bowden oversees five stations and seven fire companies. He's responsible as his crews respond to emergencies -- whether they're fires or other situations.

Bowden said his favorite part of the job is the simple pride of being a career firefighter.

"I enjoy what I do. It's a noble profession. I couldn't be more proud and excited to be here and have the honor of serving for the amount of time I have," Bowden said.

He said his job has also allowed him to be active in the community, maintain a certain level of fitness and grow within the department.

The job isn't without its challenges, however. He said the biggest challenge he faces is time management and prioritization of a non-traditional schedule.

He's been married for nearly 32 years and has children and grandchildren. Finding time to spend with family or to celebrate holidays can be difficult when working as a first responder. That challenge is made even more complicated by the unique schedule he and his colleagues work.

"There are sacrifices made. Sometimes you have to divide and conquer. I'll have to work a shift so my wife might have to go to an event, things like that," he said.

That challenge extends beyond his time. As an assistant chief, he also has to help tackle those issues with the staff he oversees.

"Managing vacations and time off and the various nuances of how guys take shifts off, keeping the roster at required levels and so forth -- managing that is a daily thing," Bowden said.

When he's not working, Bowden said he spends time with his wife and family. He and his wife enjoy traveling, going to concerts, riding their motorcycles and hunting.

He said the last concert they went to was Blackberry Smoke, an American country rock band.