In Memory of Captain Kurt Krebbs

Growing up the son of a career Marine, Oceanside resident Kurt Krebbs seemed destined for a life of public service.

After graduating from high school, however, he bought a brand new blue Mazda RX7 and drove it up to Cal Poly Pomona to study business instead. In that four years, however, he realized that a life of suits and ties was unacceptable. He needed something much more fulfilling.

So staying true to his favorite color, he bypassed the camo green of his father’s fatigues and opted for fire department blues. It would mark the beginning of a career that would span over three decades.

In the firehouse Kurt quickly became known for his uncanny sense of humor. When Fire Engineering Magazine came out with a “White Issue”, he couldn’t resist the temptation to give a little dig to the OFD’s Fire Engineers, or “sacred lambs”, as he called them. This parody (right) has since become legendary in the OFD.

On the fireground Kurt was respected as a skilled, hard working firefighter. He was also compassionate, selfless, and had a love and respect for the life of all creatures.

Aside from his wit and unexplainable devotion to his old RX7, Kurt was most known for his generosity. He treated his friends like they were family and was a devoted son, brother and uncle.

Kurt’s loss was a sudden and unexpected loss to the OFD. On Friday, April 7th, 2006 he collapsed after fighting a difficult and prolonged structure fire. A lifelong Oceanside resident, Kurt died protecting the citizens and place he called his home. He was 45 years old and is the OFD’s first Line of Duty Death.

Most who knew Kurt would agree that he had given his life to his service long before that fateful day. Captain Krebbs was most comfortable in the fire station. He sacrificed both his personal and social lives because to him, the firehouse was his home.

He is missed.

The infamous "White Issue" of Fire Engineering.

Kurt tending to patients on a rollover vehicle accident on N. Hill St. in Oceanside with Rick Varey, Rich “Hatch” Baxter, and Glenn Smith.

Kurt at Oceanside Fire Station #2 with (L to R) Captain Mike Young and FF/PM’s Stu Sprung, Greg DeAvila, and Dominic Smith.

Kurt, Guy “Pumpkinhead” Goodwin, and Kirk McCauley at the original Hotel California north of Cabo San Lucas in Todos Santos.

Kurt treating a patient in the back of the ambulance.

The Station 3C Crew in 1997: FF/PM Stu Sprung, Captain Dave Snyder, Kurt, Engineer Keith Collins, FF/PM Brian Myers, and Battalion Chief Bob Cotton.

Kurt with President Bush following the 2003 Southern California Firestorm.

Kurt at Tri-City ER with Scott Prestie, Tom Schraeder, Rick Varey, Eric Thorson, Mark Finstuen and Glenn Smith.

Firefighters from all over Southern California attended the memorial service.

Kurt was a lifelong surfer. A memorial paddle-out was held in his honor.

The text below was written by one of Kurt’s best friends, OFD Engineer Rick Varey. It is titled My Friend Kurt, and it most accurately pays a final respect to the man who touched thousands of lives.

One of the most amazing characteristics of Kurt was his sense of humor. He had the perfect delivery of a seasoned comic, every time. One of his special skills was finding humor in everyday life, even if occasionally it was at the expense of others. It was always strictly in fun, though. One time he saw a lady whose shoes looked a little big. He elbowed me and said, “Check out the Daffy Ducks on Godzilla.” He meant no harm. It was just hysterical.

I remember another time when we were all out in the early evening. (I stress early because Kurt’s biorhythms dictated that he arise at 0500 hours, and retire about 9 PM. I know this, because I’m the same way.) Anyway, he was engaged in a spirited discussion with a French tourist. I was half paying attention, but when the volume crescendoed everyone took notice. Kurt stood up and roared, “Hey Pierre, if it wasn’t for us you’d be wearing lederhosen and stuffing sauerkraut down your gullet!” Once again, it was all for effect. He was just having a good time.

Sometimes Kurt had a serious side, though. For the longest time, I never knew why he loved the TV show M.A.S.H. so much. One of the satellite stations had five hours of MASH every night. He would watch the entire thing, never even cracking a smile. He would only leave to respond to emergencies. I wondered if the reason he watched had to do with the fact that his father had served in Korea. He knew nothing about the conflict and it seemed his father, a career Marine, passed away before ever discussing it with him. Now I realize maybe this was his way of understanding what his father went through.

Kurt was friendly to everyone. If one of our fire dept. family needed help building a fence or working on a project KK would complain for about an hour. Pretending to be inconvenienced was one of his favorite things to do. Then, every time, he’d be the first one there at the crack of dawn. This, like so many other wonderful qualities, was one we could count on.

Kurt’s biggest act was portraying himself as a tightwad. In fact, he was the exact opposite. Those of us in his “inner circle” knew better. When the check hit the table…and we have had some big ones along the way…Kurt was ALWAYS the first with the wallet out. Anyone who knows him would agree he was the most generous person they’d ever met. In fact, none of us can remember a time when he put his own needs first. He was always giving.

Sometimes Kurt was philosophical. He used to say, “Rick, there’s only a couple people you need to grease, the most important is the trash collector.” I’ve seen Kurt throw away the equivalent of spent nuclear fuel rods, with no trouble whatsoever. That was only one of his, “Krebbsisms.” When things got hectic and Kurt was under pressure another famous line was, “Why don’t you throw another Egyptian block on my back.”

Kurt also had an intangible magic with women. Yeah, he was a good looking guy, but that wasn’t it. He seemed to somehow get through to them on a different dimension. Once we were at an outdoor cafe, and at the table next to us was a beautiful woman with Pippi Longstocking pigtails. It was bugging the heck out of Kurt. Finally, he leans over to her and says, ” Hey Heidi…what…did you just jump off of the side of a Swiss Miss box?” He had her phone number within minutes. I was amazed…if I had said that to her I would have been arrested. The Krebbs magic is legendary. All his friends know what I mean.

Lastly, I will never be able to look at a Mazda RX7 again without thinking about Kurt. I believe he purchased it brand new back in the late 70’s, against his dad’s vehement objections. About three years ago my cell phone rang while driving. “Rick, I got a serious problem. Ya got a minute?” I happened to be driving near his house at the time. ”I’ll be right over.” I replied. I pulled up to ‘Casa De Krebbs’ and he was standing over the car with a look on his face that I’d never seen before. I thought maybe the motor blew up. Shaking his head he said, “Rick, I’ve just been declared a gross polluter.” Kurt has been going to the same Mazda mechanic for 25 years. The fix on the Mazda had finally reached the point of costing more than the car was worth. When I told him that they crush gross polluters, he immediately pulled out his cell phone and told his mechanic he was coming down. Long story short, the mechanic had to install two catalytic converters, in series, and put the exhaust sniffing wand three feet behind the tailpipe. $1500 later, he’s back on the road. The mechanic, to this day, stores the contraption in the rafters of his shop. I want to have Kurt’s Mazda bronzed, hermetically frozen in time, for all to enjoy. Kurt got his feathers ruffled when I made fun of his beloved RX7. I’ll run in to KK again someday, and I’ll probably deserve to get chewed out over this one. But until that happens, I’ll miss my best friend every day.

Thanks Rick…we all need to read this once in a while.