San Diego’s 18th fire chief is something of an outsider, but also a familiar face. Chief Colin Stowell started his career with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department thirty years ago and rose through the ranks to become Assistant Chief of Emergency Operations in 2015.

A year later, Heartland Fire and Rescue came knocking. The agency, that includes El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, hired Stowell as its fire chief. When the opportunity arose, he came back to where it all began on August 13th this year.

He is a San Diego native, graduate of Mira Mesa High School and San Diego State University, husband, father and a lifelong fan of the Chargers and Padres.

As Chief Stowell looks at the Department, he has set his priorities.

First, is staffing and retention. The Department needs more people, more women, and more minorities. That means recruiting and holding more academies. “And then we have to keep them on the job,” Stowell said. “Salary and benefits are somewhat out of my control, but I hope I can lead a department with a work environment they want to stay with and have a great career.”

Another priority is to determine what Emergency Medical Service (EMS) will look like. The 9-1-1 system fields a lot of calls from people who need help but do not need an ambulance and a fire engine.

“The fire service is so traditional. As call volume goes up, we look to build more fire stations, buy more engines, and ambulances. Sometimes that is the case but not always, and more often we need to look for alternative ways to serve those needs by getting people the right resources.”

Chief Stowell also will continue to strengthen partnerships with the county and other fire agencies in the county. The mutual aid agreements are key to protecting lives and property from wildfire. And someday, he thinks, that will include a regional communications center.