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Jim Towers: World shipbuilder turned firefighter lands on Whidbey Island
Twenty-seven years is a long time to volunteer for one organization, but for Jim Towers, captain of South Whidbey Fire/EMS stations in Langley and Saratoga, it’s in contrast to a life spent living and working around the world.
Towers, who has a lingering sparkle of an English accent, was born in the United Kingdom and has lived in Canada and Australia. As a merchant seaman and shipbuilder, he traveled the globe — the Americas, Asia and Europe. He even worked in the Arctic for a while.
But in 1986, when he settled down on Whidbey Island, he decided to try his hand at firefighting after hearing the organization was looking for volunteers. He never looked back.
“Some people work with Little League or Boy Scouts,” said Towers. “But I really like helping people through what can be a very bad day for them, whether it’s a fire, accident or medical emergency. It feels great to be there for them.”
Towers commutes to Seattle, where he works full-time as chief engineer for a shipbuilding company. He and his wife, Pat, a chef at Cafe Langley, live on a 10-acre farm where they have one dog and one horse.
“We used to have more horses, but now we’re down to one,” he says.
They have two grown daughters who live in the region and still come to visit the home farm. The husband and wife team enjoy hiking and running when they find time between working and volunteering. He says life is pretty darn grand.
Having been a volunteer for so many years, Towers says the most successful ones are people who are level headed and prepared to work hard.
“The training can be time consuming,” said Towers. “But the reward is the value you bring to your family, neighbors and community. And the camaraderie with colleagues is pretty great; it’s like family.”
Although he has a passion for firefighting and medical emergencies, he says he loves living on Whidbey because of the peace and quiet of the rural landscape.
“If I need it, it’s there, and that’s very special,” he says.
After 27 years, the community thinks Towers is very special, too.