In February, Los Angeles Fire Station 74 in Tujunga made history with the appointment of Fire Captain Kristine M. Larson as Captain II on the “A” platoon. Recently promoted to that rank, Larson is now the highest-ranking African American female in the LAFD and one of only three female captains on active duty in the field, assigned to fire suppression duty.
During her work hours, Larson is the senior ranking officer overseeing a crew of nine firefighters for ladder truck and emergency medical services calls. She is responsible for the day-to-day affairs of Fire Station 74 while working on behalf of the safety of the Sunland-Tujunga community.
While ensuring the safety of the local community, Larson has also been called away from home to help other agencies.
“I’ve been as far north as Chico, Rim of the World in the local mountains, and Val Verde,” Larson said. “Since we are a really expensive resource, it has to be a really big fire with homes in imminent danger for us to be called into the fire area.”
During her off-hours, Larson volunteers as a crew leader at Camp Blaze Fire Camp in Washington State, a non-profit organization staffed entirely by female fire service personnel who volunteer their time with the vision of empowering, inspiring and supporting strong women leaders.
Larson has been with the Los Angeles Fire Dept. for 25 years, since graduating from UCLA where she earned her undergraduate degree in sociology on a full athletic scholarship. Over the years, she has tackled some challenges.
“Dealing with the aftermath of the Rodney King trial and the anger and hostility that some people felt toward firefighters [was difficult],” she said. “We would be driving around on the fire trucks and, because we sit so high, we could see that some people were carrying baseball bats and other weapons in their cars. Some of those people made a point of letting us know exactly what they thought of us while others thanked us for the work we do every day.”
She began her career in 1990 serving as a firefighter/EMT in Encino and on the Westside. In 2006, she was promoted to Captain I, becoming the first African American female in LAFD history to achieve that rank. Over the next eight years she was stationed at Fire Station 58 in the Pico/Robertson area where she was in command of a dedicated and tight-knit crew on the “C” shift. In 2013, she was transferred to LAFD’s Drill Tower 81 in Panorama City where she earned respect from her fellow staff members and recruits as the sole female officer of LAFD’s Drill Tower staff.
Achieving the rank of Captain II took a dedication that not all might have.
“At a certain point, you feel like you want to challenge yourself to learn more and step up,” said Larson. “About 12 or 13 years ago, the woman who was then the highest-ranking female in the LAFD, Deputy Chief Roxanne Bercik, told a group of us woman not to rest on our laurels – to step up and to challenge ourselves. Of the women who were there that day, 99% did step up. Women on the LAFD want to make a difference and work very hard to do so.”
Larson acknowledged that though the department is stretched thin, it strives to meet the needs of the public it serves.
“While everybody’s emergency is ‘their own emergency,’ they are not always Fire Department emergencies,” she said. “We try to do our best when we are called, but with the huge increase of the call load and our lack of resources, we can’t be everything to everybody. While we can’t solve every problem, we always try our best to serve our community.”
For fire emergencies in Sunland-Tujunga, call “911.” For those who have questions regarding fire department business, contact LAFD at (818) 756-8674.