Lewis County commissioners honor two longtime fire chiefs


Praising their years of dedicated service to the county, the Lewis County commissioners celebrated two longtime fire officials Tuesday as they prepare to retire.

“This morning, we have the privilege to honor two of Lewis County’s finest public servants as they retire from service,” Lewis County Commissioner Scott Brummer said. “This morning, we get the opportunity to recognize two of the very best.”

At their weekly business meeting Tuesday morning, the commissioners formally recognized Chief Gregg Peterson of Fire District 5 and longtime Riverside Fire Authority Chief Michael Kytta.

Peterson began as a volunteer chief in King County in 1969 at 15 before becoming an EMT while still in high school. Peterson later taught fire hydraulics classes at North Seattle Community College and has more than five decades in fire service.

Peterson first retired in 2011, before two separate stints as chief of Fire District 5 in Napavine.

“It is with great privilege that we honor the retirement, at some point the legitimate retirement, of Chief Gregg Peterson,” Brummer said.

In his remarks, Peterson said he has “seen a lot” during his career, though his overall mission remained simple.

“A lot has impacted my life and how I look at things, and I think mostly how I dedicate my life to stopping bad things from happening to people,” Peterson said.

Lewis County Commissioner Lindsey Pollock said Peterson’s commitment to Lewis County, particularly Boistfort, “has been nothing short of amazing.”

“The organization of just kind of general emergency services and community-based emergency care for the citizens has been something to behold,” Pollock said.

Lewis County Commissioner Sean Swope described Peterson as a “strong advocate” for public safety.

“And just ensuring that, down the road, that we were going to have a robust public safety system,” Swope said. “And just how you’ve continually been a vocal proponent and knowing, having the foresight to see that there are some shortcomings in front of us, and trying to solve those issues before they become issues.”

Last year, Kytta retired after 28 years of serving as a fire chief or assistant fire chief of Riverside Fire Authority, and 48 years as a volunteer or full-time firefighter. Like Peterson, Kytta’s career began as a volunteer firefighter at the age of 15.

According to Brummer, Kytta helped establish countywide 911 service, consolidate rural fire departments into the 911 call center, and replace multiple fire stations. Kytta was named Washington’s fire chief of the year in 2006.

“It is our privilege this morning to honor Chief Mike Kytta in his retirement from service,” Brummer said.

Kytta, who said he doesn’t “fancy himself” as someone drawn to the spotlight, appreciated the recognition.

“It’s been a tremendous career being able to serve in Lewis County in all of these different capacities,” Kytta said.

In her remarks, Pollock said Kytta offered a “calm and steady presence” to new first responders as they returned from their first major incident.

“I have much appreciated that, and I believe that you have continued with that guidance to many generations of recruits,” Pollock said. “So thank you.”

Swope recalled an incident at the Southwest Washington Fair, where Kytta was on the scene after the power went off, stranding several people on the Ferris wheel.

“You didn’t send your men, but you took off toward it,” Swope said. “It is so easy to lead from a chair or to lead from a place where you’re not involved, but just showing your men how you go about it, and how you act and your professionalism, it’s amazing. You don’t see that very often, and I’m so grateful.”