Pocatello Fire Chief David Gates is set to retire from the fire department at the end of the month after a 28-year-long career in firefighting. In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Chief Gates shared that after retirement, he plans to manage his rental properties including an Airbnb, go fly fishing, play competitive handball, read books, garden and travel with his wife.
When he was in high school, Gates never considered firefighting as a career path for himself, but several life events led him to pursue it later on. In early photos of Gates, he can be seen standing next to his mother by their Christmas tree with a fire truck toy and yellow hard hat. Although his career choice was not always evident during early adulthood, it seems Gates was destined to become a firefighter.
“I have pictures of me as child around Christmas time when I was 5 that shows that I had a Tonka fire engine and a fire hat, so probably somewhere in the far reaches of my mind I had had this infused in me early on,” Gates reasoned. “And then, as I grew up and moved through life, I kept meeting people that kept kind of directing me in the direction of the fire department saying, ‘Hey, you should really look at this. It’s a great career.’”
Chief Gates served in the United States Navy as a nuclear electrician two years after graduating from high school. At the end of his service contract with the Navy, Gates recalls seeing a newspaper article in the Idaho State Journal, outlining the salary and job description of firefighters.
This article along with good advice from peers were catalysts for his decision to reach out to the department 28 years ago. He was attending college at Idaho State University at the time for a degree in business administration.
As a part of his Naval military occupational service, Gates was formally trained on how to fight submarine fires. Because firefighting is considered a paramilitary organization, much of the structure, discipline and leadership he learned as a sailor overlapped with his newfound profession with the fire department. In the same BYU-Idaho interview, he described what he’ll miss most about his job after retirement.
“Oh, working with the people,” he said. “It’s been an incredibly rewarding job and I’ve worked with some amazing people both within the department and at the state level … The people that I’ve worked with are phenomenal, and I guess in that sense it leaves me feeling good because I know that our state is in good hands and our city is in good hands.”
Gates is pleased with the trajectory of his professional career and the legacy he left with the Pocatello Fire Department. He found the right fit for him despite a period of discovery. To young people who are still unsure about their career paths, he gave the following advice.
“And I guess if I were to tell people today, you don’t always have your clear vision. Sometimes that comes late in life, but don’t be antsy. It’ll come to you,” Gates said.