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Bend fire chief looks back: 30 years, one place

By Joe Burns
Published On: Apr 25 2013 02:10:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2013 08:53:30 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21 sat down with Bend Fire Chief Larry Huhn for a look back at his career.

BEND, Ore. -

The city of Bend is losing one of its veteran leaders. Larry Huhn, a Bend firefighter for 30 years, and the fire chief for the past five years, is retiring. His last official day is Friday --  and apparently, we learned Wednesday, his shoes -- make that boots -- are hard to fill.

NewsChannel 21 sat down with Huhn on Wednesday to hear his thoughts and take a look back

Huhn is the sixth fire chief in the 100-year-history of the Bend Fire Department.

Colleagues describe him as a quiet man who listened and helped keep the fire department from facing deep cuts.

Tom Carlon was the first Bend fire chief, back in 1919. Then came Leroy Fox, Vern Carlon, Pete Hansen, Larry Langston -- and then Huhn.

"Each person has had something to contribute," said Bend fire Capt. Mike Baxter.

For about half his life, Huhn has served in some capacity with the Bend Fire Department.

"I really was looking for a career that was meaningful that was going to give back to the community," said Huhn. "And it wasn't about making a living or making money. It was something I had passion for, something I believed in -- and I found it in the fire service."

In 2008, Huhn's career path from firefighter engineer to training chief led him to the fire chief's helmet and badge.

"I saw my role as bridging a gap, and that was the economy," Huhn said.

Even so, he's been forced to cut 11 positions since taking over as chief -- and if it wasn't for the team environment he championed within the department, it could have been worse.  

"We've saved a lot of money," Huhn said. "We've built our reserves up to well over $1 million, which is going to get us over the next few years. And it worked out pretty well."

Bend firefighters know the challenges he's faced.

"We are doing the best we can with extremely low manpower," Baxter said. "And he's been able to really squeeze the most out of what we have right now."

Huhn was reminded of what his career has meant to him just last week watching coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings.

"I felt that urge that we all feel in the service, that we need to be there to help," Huhn said. "And I realized right after that -- I'm not going to be in that capacity any more."

Huhn says he'd like to be remembered as a thoughtful and compassionate person who cared about the fire service and did his best to move it forward.  

"I've had a lot of dealings with him over the years," Baxter said. "And he's always been a great listener for the crews, always hearing everybody out, giving everybody a fair chance to state their piece to him. "

The search for Huhn's replacement is still ongoing.

It opened in January and about 80 people applied. Four finalists were interviewed in Bend earlier this month.

But according to a brief announcement from the city Wednesday, that process -- done in-house and not with a consultant -- "did not produce a successful outcome."

The new search will start in June. In the meantime, former fire chief Larry Langston will step in as interim chief, starting next Monday.

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