Skip to main content
Career Profile

Jeffrey Cowen

Firefighter, City of Sarnia
Jeffrey Cowen | Pompier
Jeffrey Cowen | Pompier
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway
School Subject

Jeffrey Cowen is a firefighter for the city of Sarnia, Ontario.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Windsor, Ontario, Canada and raised in London, Ontario, Canada

I now live in: Point Edward, Ontario, Canada.

I completed my training/education at: Bachelor of Arts at the University of Western OntarioParamedic Diploma from Fanshawe College>Basic Fire Suppression Certificate from Training Division in Crowley, Texas; Arborist Certificate from Lambton College

What I do at work

At work we work a 24-hour shift which starts at 7:00 a.m. and finishes at 7:00 a.m. the following morning. At shift change the firefighter you are replacing will brief you on anything important that happened during the prior shift. After speaking with the outgoing shift, we do vehicle and equipment checks. This is followed by routine cleaning of the fire station.

During the shift we may respond to, automatic fire alarms, car accidents, fires, technical rescue incidents such as rope and water rescue, carbon monoxide alarms, medical emergencies and hazardous materials incidents. At these incidents we will use various types of equipment depending on the emergency. For example we use such tools as auto extrication tools, fire pumps, hoses and appliances, generators, gas powered saws, electric and gas-powered fans.

Emergency incidents can be unpredictable and sometimes require intervention before all relevant information can be collected. Because emergency operations take place anywhere, all potential hazards are difficult to identify. Identifying the problem is usually not difficult; people call 911 with a problem. But selecting the best decision to solve the problem can sometimes be challenging. Decision making is often guided by standard operating guidelines and past experiences of senior firefighters. Teamwork selflessness and effective communication are essential components for dealing with fires and emergencies.

During the course of our duties it is beneficial to have a background in science and math. Responding to hazardous materials calls requires firefighters have some background knowledge of chemistry and physics. Understanding chemical properties such as vapour pressure, specific gravity, and toxicity are important for safe and effective solution to a hazardous materials incident. A physics background is important for firefighting. Having a basic understanding of thermodynamics and gas laws is extremely important for effectively extinguishing fires inside buildings. Basic math skills are also required of pumping apparatus operators when making hydraulic calculations for determining correct fire pump discharge pressures.

My career path is

When I finished high school, I did not know what I wanted to do for a career. So I went to university with the goal of obtaining a Bachelor of Science Degree. Unfortunately, I really struggled with university level science, even though I did well in high school science. I barely passed my first year of university, so I switched my degree to a Bachelor of Arts and took classes that interested me. In the summers I worked for a landscape design company and then as an apprentice for a tree company. There I realized I preferred a job that was physically challenging. But I found landscaping and certain aspects of the arborist apprenticeship really boring.

After University I decided I might be interested in a career in the fire service. I spoke with some firefighters in the city of London and they recommended that I consider getting a paramedic diploma. This is because of the fire service’s expanding role within the emergency medical service. I took their advice and enrolled in the paramedic program at Fanshawe College. Following that I obtained my basic firefighter training in Texas.

After paramedic school I worked a number of years as a paramedic while trying to get hired with a fire department. Competition for firefighter jobs is fierce; the first time I was interviewed for a position with the Sarnia Fire Department I was unsuccessful. The next time the City of Sarnia advertised for firefighter positions I re-applied and was offered an interview. For my second interview, I spent more time practising and preparing for the interview and was offered the job.

I am motivated by

I love my job! It’s the perfect job for me. When I was looking for a career I knew I didn’t want to sit at a desk. I wanted a job that was physically demanding, where you had to get dirty. I wanted to be able to work in a group to accomplish things that were hard. I needed a job that could be unpredictable, chaotic, and had an element of danger to it and the fire service met all those needs. I enjoy every aspect of the fire service from interacting with the public, to responding to fires and emergencies to cleaning hose and equipment. The fire service is the type of job you could work for 100 years and still not know everything or have seen everything. To be a good firefighter you have to be dedicated to constantly learning and practising; that has always appealed to me as an ideal career. I like working in a career that values honesty, integrity, courage and hard physical labour. It’s a privilege to be part of the fire services proud history.

How I affect peoples’ lives

The fire service can be an extremely rewarding career. The job gives you the opportunity to meet and interact with all sorts of people from your community. As a firefighter in Sarnia I feel invested in the community. It’s a privilege to be able to try to help people when they are experiencing some type of crisis. It is impossible to describe how it feels when you have played a role in saving someone's life.

Outside of work I

Outside work I enjoy spending time with my family. We like going on bike rides and stand up paddle boarding. In the summer we relax by spending time at my in-laws trailer near Ipperwash. Some of my coworkers and I work out together on our days off. Our Sarnia Professional Firefighters Association does a lot of fundraising and volunteer work in Sarnia and I participate in some of my association's fund raising activities.

My advice to others

For youth interested in a career in the fire service I highly recommend obtaining some type of post-secondary degree or diploma. A paramedic or a fire science diploma would be an asset for anyone applying to the fire service. An apprenticeship and/ or work experience in the trades is also an asset. There is a lot of competition for relatively few firefighter positions. To be successful in the fire service you must be self-motivated, capable of independent learning, have excellent interpersonal skills and be an effective listener.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Physical Education/Health
  • History
  • Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Played on a sports team
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Played video games
  • Never wanted to be in the classroom
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do

Related Topics

Explore Career Profiles

  • Winston Campeau headshot

    Winston Campeau

    Researcher - Evolutionary Processes

    I use computer simulations and math to research how animals' behavior changes when their environment changes.
  • Anne-Marie Mulumba headshot

    Anne-Marie Mulumba

    User Experience Research Consultant

    I work with organizations to help them better understand their customers and users of their products, so we can improve that experience for them.
  • Curtiss Luong headshot

    Curtiss Luong (he/him)

    Security Consultant

    I help companies keep their information safe from cyber criminals.
  • Close up Businessman using calculator and cell phone for do math finance on wooden desk in office and business working background

    Petter Wiberg (he/him)

    Managing Director

    I use my math and computer science background in the financial industry.
  • Katie Mack headshot

    Katie Mack (she/her)

    Hawking Chair in Cosmology and Science Communication

    I study of the fundamental physics of the universe.
  • Ksenia Nadkina headshot

    Ksenia Nadkina (she/her)

    Software Developer

    I create code for different types of software.
  • Sergio Eduardo de Ilzarbe headshot

    Sergio Eduardo de Ilzarbe

    Chartered Financial Analyst

    I help small companies grow their business and succeed in the marketplace.
  • Peter Vlasveld headshot

    Peter Vlasveld

    Intermediate Software Developer

    I write backend code for web apps that help in Cyclica's drug discovery efforts.
  • Sara Knox headshot

    Sara Knox (she/her)

    Assistant Professor (biometeorology)

    I study ways to restore and protect ecosystems to help fight climate change.
  • Benjamin Pauquet designing a part for the lunar lander on his computer

    Benjamin Pauquet (video)

    Mechanical and Materials Engineer

    I design parts for off-road and off-planet vehicles.
  • Evaline Warmels with lunar rover in background.

    Evaline Warmels (Video)

    Mechatronical Engineer

    As an electrical engineer at Canadensys, I help build robots (lunar landers) that will explore the surface of the moon.
  • Benjamin Pauquet with lunar rover in testing room.

    Benjamin Pauquet (he/him)

    Mechanical and Materials Engineer

    I design parts for off-road and off-planet vehicles.
  • ulie Hlavacek-Larrond headshot

    Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo (she/her)

    Astrophysicist and Associate professor

    I study black holes, which I think are the most fascinating objects in the Universe!
  • Justin Rotman headshot

    Justin Rotman

    Founder & CEO

    I help to determine business strategy and lead our team to serve our customers and build our product.
  • Madu Kingsley headshot

    Madu Kingsley

    Manager, Digital Platform

    I manage a diverse team of cross-functional software developers.
  • Jim Wei tenant un drone

    Jim Wei

    Associate GIS Analyst

    I use online mapping software and programming skills to help solve real-world problems in the environmental and health industries.
  • Allison Guitor in her lab at McMaster University.

    Allison Guitor

    Researcher - Antibiotic Resistance

    I study antibiotic resistance, which is what makes bacteria able to live in the presence of antibiotics.
  • Portrait de Isha Berry

    Isha Berry


    I look for patterns in disease outbreaks and health outcomes in populations across the world.
  • Portrait de Nishant Pillai

    Nishant Pillai

    Cybersecurity Director

    I help organizations protect their computer and networking systems from potential hackers and cyberattacks.
  • Chris Derksen en train de faire ses recherches sur le terrain en Arctique.

    Chris Derksen (he/his)

    Climate Scientist

    I use satellite data and climate models to understand how climate change is impacting snow and ice across Canada.