President’s Award

After having been awarded the President’s Award for his continuous efforts on writing grants for Piney Grove Fire and Rescue Department (PGFRD), Assistant Chief Chris Klutz was humbled and eager to give credit back to his department.
During the PGFRD awards banquet, where Klutz was presented with the award, Chief Jimmy Barrow went into depth as to why Klutz was being given the President’s Award.
“Chris serves as Assistant Chief at Piney Grove Fire Rescue Department. He received the President’s Award for his continued support of the department over the years. He has been instrumental is obtaining grant funding for the department at state and federal levels,” he said. “In the last four years, he has obtained grant funding in the amount of (around $800,000 – $850,000).”
Barrow further explained that Klutz has obtained funding for recruitment and retention of volunteer staffing as well as for equipment, including the recent grant they received for $76,806 that has allowed them to replace the entire hose loads on all fire apparatus.
“Much of the hose is approaching 20 years old and is now failing annual service testing,” he said.
After learning that he was receiving the award, Klutz responded by giving credit back to his department.
“Piney Grove has approximately 37 members on the roster. We depend on several others to ‘keep the wheels greased,’” he said. “It takes a lot to run an organization such as ours, especially if you are trying to stay ahead of the curve and be progressive. There were certainly other deserving candidates.”
He continued.
“It’s a nice gesture from the Board and Corporation. A lot of effort gets invested. If the department is successful, then I am successful. I am thankful for the opportunity to improve the department and grow professionally.”
Klutz explained that he grew up as a “military brat,” traveling all over the country, until he settled in Kernersville in 1999.
He shared that he first knew he wanted to be a firefighter shortly after 9/11.
“I never thought about the fire service until after 9/11,” he said. “Shortly after, I joined the fire service in 2003.”
Klutz began his fire service career at Walkertown Fire Department. He joined PGFRD in December 2007.
“I worked full-time for PGFRD for a year prior to accepting a position with Forsyth County EMS in December 2008,” he said. “In 2012, I accepted a position with the City of High Point Fire Department.”
Along with working at PGFRD, Klutz continues to works full-time for the City of High Point.
Klutz said what he likes most about the fire service is that every day presents a new challenge.
“There’s still an adrenaline rush when the bell goes off. You never know what you are going to see or what you’re going to do. There’s an old adage, ‘We are at our best when people are at their worst.’ At the end of the day, we are here to make a difference,” he shared. “Being a firefighter is still arguably the most noble of careers and we have the ability to touch the lives of our communities, especially the youth who look up to us.”
In his role as assistant fire chief, Klutz said his goal has been to leave the department better than it was when he walked in.
“We have a fairly young department, but we do have some seasoned folks that work for us. The department faces several challenges moving forward into the future. Many of our folks look to me to find solutions to problems that pop up, whether they are operational issues or administrative or strategic concerns,” he said. “My goal upon taking the assistant chief position merely was to leave the department better than it was when I walked in. The department has accomplished a lot in recent years – a Class 3 ISO rating, implementing a lot of new equipment and technology, increased staffing, doing more for our volunteers and paid staff, and greater training opportunities.”
Over the years, Klutz said he has been fortunate enough to have learned a lot about state and federal grants, as well as private foundational grants, allowing him to help bring in around $800,000 – $850,000 in grants to the department, which have provided them with various new equipment including breathing apparatus, hose and nozzles, turnout gear, and recruitment and retention.
“I was fortunate to connect with someone that helped me with my first grant opportunity, something I am very thankful for. I have also served as a grant reviewer for FEMA, which was a great learning opportunity,” he said. “These opportunities have all helped the department improve in a relatively short time period, many of which we could not do within the confines of our annual operating budgets.”
Being a firefighter, the job can be scary and stressful. Klutz said things can “get hairy” on calls that firefighters respond to, especially medical calls. He explained that they always try to maintain situational awareness, but said some things are inevitable.
“Patients with weapons on them or near them tend to make you perk up,” he stated.
When it comes to the stress of the job, Klutz said it’s the same with many other jobs.
“Some stress is good; some stress is bad. Some handle stress better than others,” he said. “For me, it’s knowing when to take some time off and when to step away from something to regroup. A good cup of coffee, a chat with old friends, and a long walk with your dog goes a long way. Of course, a vacation with your spouse usually does not hurt either.”
In staying calm on a scene, Klutz said there is a well-known acronym in the fire service, known as CHAOS or “Chief has arrived on scene.”
“We try not to live up to that. My job is to stay calm. Followers tend to emulate their leader’s behavior and demeanor. If I am not calm, regardless of the situation or environment, chances are, my firefighters aren’t either,” he explained. “Sometimes, it’s hard to step back and take the 5,000-foot view of the situation, but we have to do it. It’s easy to get tunnel vision. Sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath and regroup. Experience and familiarity to similar situations helps a lot.”
Although there are scary and stressful moments, Klutz said he enjoys his job, especially when it comes to being a mentor.
“I have had the chance to mentor quite a few people since I started in the fire service. When someone new walks through the door, I make it a point to sit down with them and see where they want to go and what their goals are,” he said. “Many people use the volunteer fire service as a stepping stone to transition into a paid career firefighter. Whatever their aspirations, we can lay out a plan to get them there.”
As assistant chief, Klutz said the hardest part about his job is interacting and building relationships with people. Not just interactions with the public in their time of crisis, but with personnel and the personnel of their neighboring departments.
“We all have different personalities and beliefs. We all have different motivations that drive us. Piney Grove is a combination department. We have full-time, part-time and volunteer staff, all of which have different desires and motivations to engage and satisfy,” he explained. “When personalities clash and problems arise, it’s my job to help mediate them. Sometimes, being a chief officer is more about being a counselor. The majority of problems can be resolved through effective communication.”
Along with working at PGFRD and High Point Fire Department, Klutz is working on his Master of Public Administration Candidate at Appalachian State University, on target to finish this fall.
In his spare time, Klutz said he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, traveling to the mountains to fly fish or kayak, and going to the beach.

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