Quilcene has first permanent fire chief in 1 years
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Quilcene Fire Commissioner Gary Phillips, left, and acting chief Mo Moser greet the new chief, Larry Karp, right, on his first day on the job. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE — After 18 months without a permanent Quilcene fire chief, a veteran Illinois firefighter took the helm of the small department Monday.

“I plan to observe the department,” said Larry Karp prior to a short ceremony Monday morning.

“I want to get to know the staff, see what they have done in the past and determine what they are capable of in the future.

“I have no notions about what to expect. I’m going to just wait and see.”

Karp — former a battalion chief with the Bensenville Fire Protection District in Bensenville, Ill., which is near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport — was hired from a field of 46 applicants.

Karp, 50, will earn $62,500 annually, and will receive health and retirement benefits at the mostly volunteer fire department.

The position has been open since the resignation of Bob Low on June 23, 2011, and recruitment for a new chief was postponed during a lengthy legal process that ended with the recall of Fire Commissioners Mike Whittaker and Dave Ward on Nov. 13.

Deputy Chief Bob Moser headed the department until a permanent chief was hired and is expected to stay on in some capacity.

Karp was in town on Sunday morning and decided to help answer an emergency call which turned out to be a heart attack suffered by Fire Commissioner Herb Beck.

Beck was discovered by a family member and was taken to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton for treatment, where he remains.

“I had some things to say, but that was not to be,” Beck said from his hospital bed Monday afternoon.

“I wanted to say how great it will be to work with Karp in the months ahead, but I also wanted to thank Mo [Moser] for keeping things going during this harsh time.”

Beck said he had special thanks for the Quilcene Fire Department and its fast response time, which in Beck’s case was about five minutes, according to Moser.

Harry Goodrich, one of the leaders of the recall effort against Whittaker and Ward, attended Monday’s ceremony and said Karp’s appointment represented forward motion for the department.

“Everything is falling into place,” Goodrich said.

Karp said he will be able to adjust from an urban to rural department, saying there will be times when people in Quilcene are truly on their own.

“My largest responsibility is maintaining the safety of the personnel who work for this district while providing the best possible response to the public safety needs,” Karp said. 

“My job is to look at the big picture and prepare for the great, ‘anything can happen’ scenario.

“We live on a peninsula where help is an hour away, assuming those mutual aid resources aren’t needed in their own town.”

Karp worked for the Bensenville department since he was 22 years old and only left after determining that the current chief planned to stay in place for several years.

“I aspired to be a chief, so I decided to look outside the state for opportunities,” he said.

“I’m lucky to have landed here; a lot of guys want these jobs.”

Working as a firefighter, Karp said, is a constant source of stimulation.

“Every day is different,” he said.

“It’s the best job in the world. It’s exciting, it’s enjoyable, and I look forward to helping young firefighters learn.”

That started at home.

Karp and his wife, Denise, have a 24-year-old son who has become a firefighter in Chicago.

Karp and his wife moved to Quilcene fully aware of the potential for culture shock.

“We are happy to be here in Quilcene.

“This is our new home, you are my new fire service family,” Karp told the department.

“Thank you for the great hospitable welcome. Now it’s time for me to get down to business.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 25. 2013 6:12PM
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