Larry Woodruff is Klamath County Fire District 4’s newest fire chief since he took over on January 1 after the previous chief, Casey Haugen, retired at the end of 2019.
Woodruff has been with Fire District 4 since he moved to Klamath Falls from Jackson County in 2003, making his way up to chief from his previous post of division chief. He began his fire career with Jacksonville Fire Department in 2001.
Due to Fire District 4’s crew of firefighters being volunteers, Woodruff said he leads a group of people with a variety of motivations behind putting on that gear for the calls. Some start at District 4 to get the experience to move on to a more full-time or paid position with another department like Fire District 1 or Kingsley Fire.
“You know, we feel pretty fortunate to be able to put out quality people for their hiring,” he said.
Some volunteer in addition to their day jobs because they are passionate about helping people or to give back to their community.
Some of District 4’s volunteers are even nurses or other emergency responders who volunteer with the department, in part to get a better understanding of another aspect of emergency response or to understand what can happen before a patient makes it to the hospital.
With 25 volunteers, Woodruff said District 4 can be called on by District 1 due to Woodruff’s department boarding the largest department in the area. This presents an opportunity for Woodruff’s crew to work alongside that department and develop skills and train even more.
While the previous chief left the department in a good shape, Woodruff said he wants to build on what those before him in his post have built and grow the department’s training program and quality of service.
“I have a passion for Fire District 4, and I want it to be the best possible department it can be, and I think that I have a vision to be able to get it there,” he said. “And I have a bunch of support from the crew here. And with them behind me, there’s no doubt that we’ll be able to get there. So they all share the same passion, which is pretty awesome.”
He’s felt the support of a crew that can match his passion for firefighting.
“It gets into your blood and helping people and putting your training to work,” he said of the motivation that gets volunteers out of bed at all hours of the night to respond to calls and then go about their day jobs still, too. “You know it gives you a good feeling, and they help somebody too.”
He’s also initiating a support group for the volunteers that will raise money to improve the station and get better equipment. He’s also been working on building relationships within the department and with the volunteers’ families to create more of a bond and understanding of how to balance commitment to the fire station and commitment to family.
“You know, we’ve spent a lot of time over the last year building relationships within the department with each other, involving our families, because they give up a lot of time with us so that we can serve the community. And we never really focused on that before,” he said. “And it’s important that we have their support, but we also really want to involve them. Because, you know, our family comes before everything, but we also still want to help in any way we can. And so having a family environment definitely helps with the support for everybody.”
Although he didn’t feel at the start of his career that he always wanted to be a chief, it’s a role he’s grown to embrace.
“I began to have a vision that this place could be amazing, and for that, I wanted to become the chief so I could help make it better,” he said. “But you know I’m not doing it alone by any means.”
Woodruff is always looking for more volunteers, he said, but it is a big commitment with odd hours and a lot of training.
He’s also looking forward to building on the relationship with Klamath Community College and its fire program that allows for students to be resident student firefighters with departments in the area.
“I just think it’s an exciting time for the fire service,” he said. “And I just want to see the district grow into a higher quality care provider than it’s ever been, you know. Everybody that’s here is striving to meet that goal as well.”