Lions Park Apartments fire of 2008 left vivid memories with retiring firefighter Dan Kreuser

After 30 years, Kreuser ends a ‘good, long, run’ on the Elk River Fire Department

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Dan Kreuser

Sept. 20, 2008, is a day firefighter Dan Kreuser will never forget.

That’s when a landmark fire broke out at the Lions Park Apartments in Elk River, and Kreuser was in charge of fighting it.

“Still to this day, every time I drive by that building, it goes through my head,” Kreuser said.

The Lions Park Apartments fire on Sept. 20, 2008.

The fire stands out as a vivid memory in his firefighting career, as he retires after 30 years on the Elk River Fire Department.

The day of the apartment building fire the fire chief was in Grand Marais and the assistant chief was in Atlanta, Ga. Kreuser was the duty officer that weekend and that left him in charge of fighting the fire.

Complicating matters was the fact that more than a dozen Elk River firefighters were at a softball tournament in Brooklyn Park.

Two firefighters fought the Lions Park Apartments fire on Sept. 20, 2008, from an aerial ladder truck.

Early on Kreuser called in help from surrounding departments, and eight fire departments responded to help fight the blaze.

“I was working with people I’d never seen before,” Kreuser said.

But it was a successful fight, as no one died in the fire. The building was also salvaged, reopening later after it was renovated.

As Kreuser puts it: “It worked out.”

That fire was one of many Kreuser has fought since joining the department in 1982.

Firefighting is a Kreuser family tradition. Both his dad, Harry, and his uncle, Jack, served on the Elk River Fire Department.

One of the things Dan has most enjoyed has been the camaraderie with other firefighters. “We were always joking around,” he said.

He also likes helping people and said being a firefighter has been “very, very rewarding.”

But he notes that it is a commitment.

The Kreuser family, left to right: Laura Weitnauer (daughter) with husband Andy and Lainey. Lindsey and Chad Kreuser (son), Dan and Jody Kreuser, Katie (daughter) Shatusky husband Todd and Asha and Dan’s parents, Barb and Harry Kreuser. 

“A firefighter can buy into it, but the big part is your family really has to buy into it,” he said.

He said he’s been blessed that his wife, Jody, and children, Chad, Katie and Laura, were very accepting of him being a firefighter and didn’t complain when he missed things like birthday parties, soccer matches and holidays.

There was even one  Christmas Day where his firefighting duties called him away from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Kreuser, who works in sales at Elk River Machine, was honored on his retirement from the fire department at the June 18 Elk River City Council meeting.

Fire Chief T. John Cunningham called Kreuser an “outstanding individual, someone that dedicated his life to the fire department.”

Mayor John Dietz commended him for a job well done.

“I know that firefighting and the Kreuser name are pretty synonymous,” the mayor said.

The Kreusers are one of the families that has carried on the tradition of firefighting in Elk River for a long time, Dietz added.

Since joining the department as an on-call firefighter in May 1982, Kreuser has held a number of positions, most recently the district chief assigned to Station 2.

He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Elk River Fire and Ambulance Service and, until recently, led the Elk River Fire and Ambulance Service’s Scholarship Committee.

“It was a good, long, run,” Kreuser said.