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First paid fire chief honored

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Karen Woodmansee/Nevada Appeal Longtime friend Reid Ross, who ran the sheriff's communication center when Les Groth was fire chief, comforts his widow, Margie Groth.
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The Carson City Fire Department honored its first paid chief on Saturday by naming the Warren Engine #1 fire station for him.

Les Groth, who died in May 2007, joined the Warren Engine #1 volunteer fire department in 1946 and served as firefighter, engineer, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and, by 1959, chief.

In 1964, Warren Engine Co. #1 recommended he become Carson City’s first paid fire chief.

“I don’t think it’s overstating it to say he probably had more impact on fire service in Nevada than any single individual,” said Carson City Fire Chief Stacy Giomi.

Bernie Sease, who succeeded the man who had hired him to become the city’s second paid fire chief, paid tribute to him at the dedication of the station on Stewart Street, calling Groth “the father of Carson City’s modern fire service.”

According to Sease, Groth was a native of Carson City who became the student-body president of his graduating class at Carson High School. He joined the Navy after high school, serving in World War II in the Pacific Theater, and was recalled during the Korean Conflict.

Groth went to work for the state printing office as a linotype operator, and became a volunteer firefighter.

“He was a quintessential advocate for the fire service,” Sease said, adding that Groth knew early on that if the state government didn’t support the fire service, it would not survive, so be became Legislative representative for the Nevada Fire Chiefs Association and lobbied for improvements.

Sease said Groth was instrumental in creating the office of state fire marshal as well as the state fire training program. He also pushed for improved self-contained breathing apparatus and better uniforms. He also began the inspection program for public buildings in Carson City, created the agility course and worked on building the Northern Nevada Fire Training Facility.

After he retired in 1978, Sease said, Groth became president of the Carson City Retired Public Employees of Nevada, served on the Senior Center board and volunteered for Carson City’s Babe Ruth League.

Groth’s son, Dennis, and daughter, Merrilee Dreeson, unveiled a framed photograph of the first fire chief, then pulled down a covering over the sign on the building that says “Les Groth Memorial Station,” as their mother, Margie Groth, watched.

“It was very emotional,” Dreeson said as she wiped tears from her eyes. “It was a beautiful tribute, and I know he’d be proud.”

In her remarks, Dreeson thanked Carson City, its fire department and sheriff’s department, and paid special tribute to the volunteers at Warren Engine Co. #1.

“These volunteers were dedicated firemen but were and are also a part of our family,” she said. “Now whenever we drive by Station One and see his name, we can be sure Carson City has been served by the very best.”

-Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.