Fire Chief profile

After 38 years of serving his hometown, VRFA Deputy Chief Dave Larberg retires

Valley Regional Fire Authority’s Deputy Chief Dave Larberg’s family has lived in Auburn since the 1900s. Dave grew up in Auburn and has worked for the citizens of Algona, Auburn, and Pacific for the majority of his career. After nearly 38 years of serving his hometown as a firefighter and chief officer, he has decided to retire.

“My family owned and operated a grocery store in Auburn until 1964. My mom, grandmother, and aunt were all crowned Miss Auburn. It seemed natural to choose a career that allowed me to serve those in my hometown community,” said Larberg.

Dave graduated from Central Washington University seeking to apply his Community Health Degree in an athletic team setting. The fire service offered both the physical challenge he was looking for plus the rewards of helping others. Larberg began volunteering for King County Fire District 44 (now Mountain View Fire and Rescue) in 1984 and, within two years, was hired as a full-time firefighter. After five years at KCFD #44, he joined the City of Auburn Fire Department (now VRFA) in 1989.

As he moved up the ranks, Larberg left a trail of accomplishments in his wake. He furthered his education with an Associate of Arts degree in Fire Command and Administration, then completed the Basic Law Enforcement Academy, becoming a Commissioned Fire Investigator in 1995. He was promoted to Captain in 2001 and worked on a joint labor-management initiative to form the first Wellness Fitness program for the department. Larberg continued working as a Wellness-Fitness Coordinator for eleven years and helped the program evolve from a solely physical fitness focus to a more holistic view which now includes emotional and mental health components.

Dave worked as a Captain in the Training and Safety Division and as a Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee Employer Representative. He also took on the role of the Pre-Incident Plans Manager for the department. Larberg was promoted to Suppression Battalion Chief from 2012 – 2014, and then moved to the Battalion Chief  in charge of Planning and Logistics, where he worked for four years.

In 2019, Larberg was promoted to the position of Deputy Chief over Technical Services, overseeing the Fire Marshal’s Office, Support Services, Planning and Logistics, Public Information and Education, and Emergency Management. In this role, he feels he accomplished one of the most rewarding challenges of his career: helping the VRFA achieve status as an accredited emergency service agency.

“It was an arduous process involving many of our staff and representatives from the International Commission on Fire Accreditation. It was a total team effort. I am very proud of our department for achieving this international achievement. It is a testament to the quality of our organization and the dedicated people who work here,“ said Larberg.

In addition to his work commitments, Dave donated many hours to his community. He chaired the American Cancer Society Relay for Life efforts for the department for 18 years, chaired the department Adopt-a-Highway team, assisted with the Toys for Kids program, the Nick of Time Foundation, and the Burn Foundation. He helped raise funds by participating in the MS Ride and served four years as a board member and Vice President of the White River Valley Museum.

With all of these accomplishments, it is not surprising that Larberg was the recipient of many awards. He was awarded Firefighter of the Year in 1995 and was twice named Fire Officer of the Year (2007 and 2011). He received three Meritorious Unit Citations and was a three-time medalist in the Northwest Police and Fire Games.

“Dave has continually set the bar for the most impactful leadership trait: to lead by example. He would never ask anyone to do something he is unwilling to do himself. Generations of firefighters have benefited from Dave’s efforts to propel the VRFA forward. There is no way to adequately express how influential he was in shaping the VRFA in the past, present, and future. We will truly miss Dave, but his influence will remain. We wish him the very best,” said Fire Chief Brad Thompson.

Looking back over his career, Larberg stated, “I have enjoyed the work, the people, and giving back to the community where I grew up. I have learned that prioritizing a good life/work balance is the key to longevity in the fire service.”

His advice to those following his footsteps: “Be kind, be humble, and strive to maintain positive relationships.”