New fire district head likes appeal of new home

Joe Clow had two things in mind when he went looking for a new challenge.

Enumclaw’s recently-hired fire chief was looking for a department that fit with his professional background, namely a system that took advantage of both professional and volunteer firefighters. Also, he wanted a location that offered the best of both worlds – a small-town environment within striking distance of a metropolitan center that offers big-city amenities.

It required packing up and moving half-way across the county, but Clow found both in Enumclaw.

But moving is nothing new for the 51-year-old fire chief and his family.

Prior to accepting the job as head of the combined Enumclaw/Fire District 28 operation, Clow spent eight years as chief of the fire department in Fond du Lac, Wis. From 1997 to 2001 he was chief of the department in Bedford, N.H. He had started his career in Iowa, moving through the ranks from firefighter to lieutenant during 18 years; fully vested in the Iowa system, he had formally retired before taking the New Hampshire post.

A philosophical disagreement led to his resignation from the Fond du Lac department, Clow said, and prompted he and his wife Sue to do some soul searching.

“We evaluated what would come next career-wise and family-wise,” he said. “We took a long time to do that, on purpose.”

The Enumclaw area fit the family lifestyle.

“We were specifically looking for a smaller community,” Clow said, and the natural beauty of the nearby mountains was a draw. But so was the relatively short jaunt to Seattle and its big-city attractions.

The Clow family includes a 14-year-old son. A 21-year-old daughter is attending college and remained in Wisconsin.

Since taking the helm Aug. 3, Clow hasn’t been disappointed.

“I’m very impressed with the quality and competence of both the professionals and volunteers” staffing the department, he said.

There really haven’t been any surprises, either.

“The people here in Enumclaw did a good job of preparing me,” he said, noting that firefighting issues remain largely the same everywhere.

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