Carson City’s first paid fire chief dies
Appeal Staff Writer
Les Groth began his career as a volunteer with the Warren Engine Company on June 17, 1946. He later became the city’s first paid fire chief.
Groth, 83, suffered a stroke Wednesday and died Thursday morning.
“He was wonderful,” said Margie, his wife of 63 years. “I’ll miss him.”
“He was the best father ever,” said his daughter, Merrilee.
Carson City Fire Chief Stacy Giomi lowered the American flag Thursday at each fire station in Carson City to half-staff.
“They will stay lowered until his service,” Giomi said. “It seems (to me) like the right thing to do.”
Giomi said Groth’s death is a big loss for the fire service community and the region. He said the fire service is a lot like family, and when you have a loss such as Groth, it’s like losing a member of the family.
“He was an incredible man in terms of the things he accomplished for the fire service today,” Giomi said.
“He was instrumental in establishing training standards and the chief’s organization that exist today. It’s ironic, he was honored last year at the Firefighters Memorial for his lifetime of service and contributions.”
Giomi said Groth set the bar pretty high as the first paid fire chief in Carson City. There have only been four in the history of the department.
“Firefighting in the 1960s, when he was around, the men were very different, and it was tough. They were strong, determined and dedicated men. Not that we aren’t today, but they didn’t have the same safety standards we have today. They really risked a lot to be volunteers in those days.
“Les impacted an awful lot of lives. He was always giving back to the community.”
Groth was born and raised in Carson City and graduated from Carson High School. In 1941, he started work as an apprentice printer at the Nevada Appeal.
Groth’s great-great-grandfather was Carson City’s mayor in 1913 and was responsible for the paving of Carson Street.
Groth began as a volunteer fireman and worked his way through the ranks until his election as chief in 1959. He served as the last fire chief of Warren Engine Co. and the first chief of the Carson City Fire Department when it took over Station No. 1 in 1959.
Les’ younger brother, George Groth, served as assistant chief of the Warren Engine Co. while Les was fire chief for the city.
“He gave a lot to the city, perhaps 40 years as a volunteer and fire chief,” George said. “Then he continued with the seniors and other causes. “He was a great, civic-minded guy.”
When Groth retired, a Nevada Appeal editorial read: “Carson City will lose the service of Fire Chief Les Groth in August when he retires. Groth has given 32 years of his life to the protection of the capital city and its inhabitants with unselfish devotion and professionalism.”
He also worked at the Nevada State Printing Office, and after retiring from the fire department, worked part time for the U.S. Forest Service, and for three years was a member of a private fire consulting firm.
Groth served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-1945. He was recalled and served from 1950-1952.
He married Margie on Oct. 1, 1943. Les said when he saw Margie, “it was love at first sight.”
Les and Margie began volunteering at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center in 1990. Les also served several terms on the senior center’s advisory council.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Margie; son and daughter-in-law Denny and Dina, of Tucson, Ariz.; daughter and son-in-law Merrilee and August “Bud” Dreeson of Yerington; brother and sister-in-law George and Clo Groth of Carson City; grandsons Buddy Dreeson of Hawaii, and Les Dreeson of Japan;and three great-grandchildren. Services are pending.
Comments from those who worked with Les Groth, who had a long history of distinguished service in many fire associations and programs.
Bob McCullough – “He was probably one of the best bosses I’ve ever worked for in my life. Not only a boss but a true friend. And he was like a father to all of us. I worked with him in the early ’60s.
He was a great fire chief, a super guy, a true gentleman.”
Gary Baseel – “He hired me in 1972 as a paid fireman. He was very enjoyable and a very nice boss. He took care of his people and more or less if anything happened he was right on top of it. Structure fires or anything like that, he was there with us.
“I owe him everything I got. I thank him very much for that. Once you got to know him, which was instantly, he couldn’t do enough for you – as long as you watched your Ps and Qs.”
Barbara Tonge, administrative assistant with the Carson City Senior Citizens Center – “Les was a wonderful person to work with. He was truly dedicated to this senior center – right to the end. He was just a great guy with a good sense of humor. He was just super.”
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