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County’s first female fire chief leads Perry Township department

February 18, 2012

Members of the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Company are shown with Kris Grove, (back, third from left) who is believed to be the first female fire chief in Jefferson County. Shown with Grove is the rest of her fire company team, (front, from left) John Cochran, assistant chief Tim "Elfie" Fetterhoff, Brielle Disque, (back) Hank Mumper, Melanie Seyler, Grove, Charlie Mauk, Mike Farster, Dan Coleman, Kim Good and Brian Good. (Photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

VALIER— The Perry Township Volunteer Fire Company in Valier has been a large part of Kris Grove's life since the early '90s, and she recently accepted the position of fire chief.

As far as anyone familiar with fire department history can confirm, Grove is the first female fire chief in the history of Jefferson County.
Grove said she first became interested in joining the Perry Township Fire Company after having served as one of the fire hall cleaners.

"The reason I first joined was because I have a passion to help people," she said. "I believe when someone needs help, you help them."

Grove has held various offices in the fire company and is an interior firefighter, which is a firefighter who fights the fire on the inside.

"You have to respect the fire, especially when you battle the flames on the inside," Grove said, adding that protecting yourself and your partners is job No. 1 on the inside.

"When the fire is ‘rockin,’ it can be intimidating when you first go inside; that's where you rely on your training," she said. "It's not like on television and the movies with little fires burning. You can't see your hand in front of your face because of the thick, black smoke."

Grove said the most helpless feeling she had was at a fatal fire that occurred Feb. 18, 2002.

"I watched them pull the victim out, (and) I asked myself, why couldn't we get there faster to save her?" Grove said, adding that it's strange when an emergency involves someone from your family.

She said during one incident, the fire company was called to a medical emergency for a male with severe breathing issues — whom she later discovered was her father-in-law.

Grove said it wasn't until she arrived at the scene that she knew the patient was a relative, and she stayed with him and waited for EMS to arrive.

"My brother was in an auto accident — even though you're related to the victim as a first responder, you have to stay in control," Grove said, adding the most difficult emergency scene is when children are involved.

She said the fire company carries stuffed animals to give to children in order to comfort them.

As a member of the volunteer fire company, she has gone on numerous medical calls over the years, Grove said.

"It can be anything from a stroke patient, cardiac arrest, a stubbed toe, upset stomach or broken limbs," she said. "As a first responder, we're the mediators between the victim and the ambulance."

Grove said the craziest call she responded to was when the Perry Township fire hall was on fire.

"Most of the fire department line officers were at a training class in Clearfield when they heard about the call," she said. "It was a long drive back from there until we got to the scene of the fire at our fire hall."

Grove said when they got back it was chaos, the inside was soaked with water, and the furnace room was charred from the blaze.

Despite the fact that she's constantly busy while working at Walker Auto Parts, Grove also has a 90-acre farm to tend to that she lives on with her husband, Glenn, and two daughters, Heather and Brook.

Grove said in her opinion, the time to rest is when one is six feet under.

"When I was offered the chief's position by the members of the fire company, I first asked my family what they thought," she said. "They all said to 'go for it,' so I said I would do it."

She said the only way she would accept the position is if Tim "Elfie" Fetterhoff would continue as the assistant chief.

"I want to thank all of the prior chiefs for all they've accomplished over the years," Grove said. "It's not just me, it's an entire team effort, which is why I wanted other members of the team in the picture with me."

When those who are avid fire and police scanner listeners hear the words "Chief 12 is en route,” they’ll know that Grove is on her way to another emergency, along with the other members of the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Company.

Grove's term is for two years.

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