by Kate Kramer
Harry Kreuser and his son, Dan Kreuser, worked together at the Elk River fire station for about five years before Harry retired, and their commitment to serving the community only strengthened their father-son bond.
When Harry talked with his family about becoming a firefighter more than 45 years ago, Dan was one of the few who spoke out against him taking the job.
“I objected the most because I had a fear of him dying in a fire,” Dan said. Harry decided to brave the dangers of such a career, however, and served on the department for 21 years. The pair worked together for about five of those years after Dan overcame his childhood apprehensions about the job and decided to join up as well.
Dan originally joined the crew without even telling his father of his plans, and Harry, the assistant chief of the station, was surprised to hear his son’s name called during a vote to approve the new firefighters.
“He made up his own mind,” Harry said. “I was a little apprehensive because when your son is at a working fire, you’re worried about him. It’s a different feeling. We treated everyone alike, though, because everyone has the same training.”
Dan, now the district chief of Station 2 after a 30-year career, said that observing his father’s career path sparked his interest in working at the fire station.
“I saw how much my dad enjoyed it and I wanted to give back to the community,” he said. The pair grew closer after working together on several fires, and Dan said he learned a lot from his father.
“When (Harry) was at the station, he was a dad, a mentor, a leader and a friend,” Dan explained. “It’s not just going fishing or hunting together. It’s time you get to spend with your dad that no one else has.”
He said his father’s dedication to his career inspired him in many ways.
“I remember once when we were working on a house fire in Otsego,” Dan said. “Dad was in charge of the scene when a news helicopter landed, and he took his coat off and put it on top of his helmet. Some people really like to be in front of a camera, but he never wanted any limelight.”
Harry’s commitment to aiding the Elk River community coupled with his lack of interest in being publicly recognized surely made him a hero to many at the station. Both Harry and Dan described the brotherhood that develops among firefighters. Dan called it an “unexplainable bond” and said because they know one another so well, the firefighters can often communicate purely with eye contact when they are at a fire.
“You work with people from every walk of life,” Harry explained. “But that odd group could get together and do a heck of a job.”