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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Larry Eden becomes new Monett Rural fire chief

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Larry Eden, who takes over this month as the new Monett Rural Fire Association chief, stands by the station in the Monett Industrial Park. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Larry Eden has taken over as the new fire chief for the Monett Rural Fire Association. He succeeds Kevin Litchfield.

Eden has been with the Monett Fire Department since 1988. He took semi-retirement last year from the department, stepping down as a captain, to take another job with International Dehydrated Foods. He leaves the city's employment completely this month to take the Monett Rural position.

"I've been associated with the fire service all my life," Eden said. "I believe I have something to give back to the community and the surrounding area."

Eden's father, Gary Eden, had been a volunteer with the Monett Rural department. Since about age 12, Eden has participated in firefighting efforts.

"I trained with one of the best, [retired Monett City Fire Chief] Jim Nolan," Eden said. "He brought me a long ways. My dad was the biggest reason I got in to firefighting and he taught me the most."

Eden said the Monett Rural department has good equipment and has had good leadership under Litchfield. He sees a number of challenges ahead.

"We're completely out of room," Eden said. "With a new station in the plans, I hope we can move forward."

Fighting fires in the field, Eden said having a water source in itself can be critical. The department has not been able to upgrade its equipment as often as the city. Upgrading one of the pumpers to a more modern vehicle will be a high priority.

"The fire trucks we have still work and do service. The breathing equipment and gear is up to date," Eden said. "The city has one of the best departments and extrication equipment in the area. We run to wrecks with them. I can't see spending money on extrication equipment with their resources there when we need them."

At present the Monett Rural Association has around a dozen firefighters. Eden hopes to increase that number, especially to boost the coverage available during the day. He hopes to boost the number of volunteers available to make first responder calls as well.

Eden said he will be like other volunteers with day jobs and will not be able to answer every call personally. By growing the department, demands on individual firemen will not be as critical.

"The policies have been put together by the firemen, with board input," Eden said. "The board governs a lot of it. I will have to look at the policies to see if they need to be upgraded. I want to look at training to see what we can add and where we need to train.

"My goal is when someone mentions the Monett Rural Fire Department, that it's always a good thing," Eden said. "I want to strive to keep the reputation we have."

Membership remains an important equation with the department. Eden said it is important to bring more property owners in as partners in the firefighting effort, and to get word out to both English and Spanish speaking rural residents that the department does not have to fight fires on the property of non-members.

"For a member-based department to have come as far as it has and been around as long as it has, that has to say a lot," Eden observed.

"I'd like to see us continue to grow as much as possible," Eden said. "We have to make sure we don't lose members due to fire districts coming into the area."

At the present time, Eden felt good about the spacing of rural satellite stations to the east, west and south. In time he felt the department may need to look harder at coverage to the north.

Eden said he has been an instructor affiliated with the University of Missouri and has offered classes with many of the departments. He believes the relationships with area departments are strong and will continue that way.

The Monett Rural board meets monthly. Dues are handled through its secretary, Kevin Huffmaster, with Huffmaster Insurance at Seventh and Cleveland. Questions about membership can be directed to Huffmaster at 235-3555 or any firefighter.

"This is going to be a challenge for me. It's a challenge I'm looking forward to," Eden added.

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