After nearly 30 years as a part-time volunteer firefighter, Bruce Bowdidge has realized every fireman's dream - to be in charge of a fire station.

Since July 23, Bowdidge, 58, has been in charge of the South Davis Fire District's new station in Centerville. The station is the district's third and houses a large pumper, two smaller squad vehicles, a grass truck and an ambulance. Two 10-man engine companies are assigned to the facility and are on call 24 hours a day.The station is manned by at least two firefighter emergency medical technicians from 8 a.m. to midnight every day of the year.

Bowdidge, a veteran automobile parts manager and inventory control expert, joined the Davis County Fire Department in 1959. He was made a fire captain in 1960 and an assistant chief of the department in 1971. That department became the South Davis Fire District in 1982, and Bowdidge continued with the newly formed district as an assistant chief.

In all his years as a firefighter Bowdidge has never been seriously hurt. "Being a part-time fireman has been a hobby all these years - actually my only hobby. I never got around to being a hunter or fisherman or collecting things," he said.

Training is Bowdidge's No. 1 priority, he said, and is vital to building a competent team that can respond to fires quickly, handle accidents and medical emergencies, and deal with other situations, such as handling hazardous materials.

"Hazardous materials incidents - from gasoline spills to dangerous chemical fires and spills - are becoming one of the biggest dangers in modern life and require specialized training and equipment to handle."

Bowdidge, who lives about six blocks from the Centerville fire station, said the most important attribute a fireman can have in an emergency is "a cool head and a firm grip on things."

The sooner you put out a fire, the better, he said. "They only get bigger, and the longer they burn, the worse fires get. In a fire, just like a medical emergency, every second counts."