After three decades serving Fall City and the surrounding areas as a firefighter, Capt. Ken Larson is finally hanging up his helmet and embarking on a well-earned retirement.
Larson, 60, is a one of Fall City’s native sons. He grew up in the town, and graduated from Mt. Si High School and graduated in 1979 and enlisted in the Marines that same year. He spent four years in the service, and was stationed around the world from Central America to Africa and Europe.
He returned home to the small logging community of Fall City after his four year contract was over in 1983.
“I really fell back in love with the place,” he said. “The people and the beauty and the community.”
He began working construction in the area for the better part of the next decade. In the late 1980s, Larson and a friend were returning from an elk hunting trip and saw that the fire department was looking for volunteers. He initially went to a training on a whim, but quickly realized that the camaraderie he was developing with fellow firefighters was similar to his time in the Marines — and something he realized he missed.
Larson started as a volunteer in 1988, but in 1991 was hired on as a career firefighter. He was promoted to Captain in 1995. In that time, the firefighting tactics have remained relatively the same, although there’s better tools now. But over the years they have added more services, including swift water rescue, and can take on complex rescues associated with swift flood water.
But he estimated that around 70% of their work is still calls relating to emergency medical services. They’re called firefighters, he said, but they’re there when people need health care too.
Larson’s last shift is Dec. 29 at 8 a.m., when he finishes up his night shift. Melinda Wall, the fire district’s administrative assistant, had nothing but kind words about Larson.
“He’s been a stellar leader. He’s just very proactive, a very genuine, honest guy,” Wall said. “He’s been a real pleasure to work with over the years. We couldn’t have asked for a better Captain.”
Firefighting requires a lot of time, both on and off duty. It has also kept Larson away from his family a lot of the time. He’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, taking more camping trips and getting back into hunting and fishing, which he loves.
Between his time in the Marines, and with the fire department, he’s spent most of his adult life in public service. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I consider myself very lucky and fortunate to be able to do that,” Larson said. “I’ve just been truly blessed to be able to work with such good people — and firefighters are all great people.”
Fall City Fire Chief Chris Connor is also likely retiring in February, so the department will have both a new Captain and a new Chief.
For a while in the 1990s, Connor and Larson were the only paid firefighters in the department.
“He’s definitely earned his retirement, and I’m happy to see him moving on to be doing some funner things,” Connor said. “He’s been a pretty faithful worker here for many, many years, very reliable. He’s just one of those guys that shows up on time ready to work every day, has a great attitude. All the things that you would like to see in a coworker.”