Los Angeles Battalion Chief Retires After 53 Years

Updated: 04-27-2007 10:40:43 AM

Story by nbc4.tv


NBC4's Robert Kovacik interviews LA City Fire Battalion Chief Larry Schneider, who is retiring after a 53-year career. Kovacik said Schneider, 79, of Torrance, is believed to be the longest-working field firefighter in U.S. history.

After Thursday, Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Larry Schneider has one more shift to go before he calls it a day, ending a 53-year-career believed to have made him the nation's longest-working field firefighter.

The 79-year-old Torrance man, who could easily pass for a man 30 years younger, joined up in 1954, when the department -- now run by a black interim chief -- was segregated. He became a captain in 1961 and a battalion chief in 1975.

"I've been a fireman my whole life," Schneider, whose last shift is Friday, recently told the Daily News. "I have never been assigned to a desk job. My entire career has been in fire suppression and rescue."

Having worked at fire stations from San Pedro and South Central to the San Fernando Valley, Schneider is believed to be the longest-working field firefighter to have served in the United States.

He has seen brush fires, riots, towering infernos, plane crashes, earthquakes, sunken ships, cliff rescues and floods and has worked on most of the city's major fires and catastrophes since the 1940s.

Schneider said he could have retired long ago, and considered doing so in 1988 when his wife of 36 years, Marjorie, died of cancer. But he decided to keep working.

"I do enjoy the fire department. I do enjoy working," he said.

To his colleagues, Schneider is an icon. "I hate to see him go. His loyalty to the fire service and to the city of Los Angeles is unparalleled," Gary Jenkins, Schneider's staff assistant and partner at fire scenes for the last 14 years, told The Daily News.

Schneider's son, LAFD Capt. Larry Schneider Jr., compared his dad to World War II Gen. George S. Patton.

"George Patton was a very popular, but sometimes feared, man," the son said. "He never took his eye off what he was there for. Nothing was more important. Being a good fireman was always where my dad's eye has been."

Born Dec. 28, 1927, Schneider knew as a young boy that he wanted to follow his father and brother into a firefighting career. He joined the Torrance Fire Department in 1949, and rejoined it following a stint in the Army from 1950 to 1952, then joined the LAFD in 1954.

He says he will miss sitting around, drinking coffee and talking with his colleagues in the station, waiting for the next call.

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Battalion Chief Larry Schneider

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