CROSSLAKE - As the population of Crosslake continues to grow, now more than 2,000 residents, the Crosslake Fire Department has become a vital and an integral part of the community's future. But next month, the city will reflect on its past.
The department's 40th anniversary will be celebrated on Aug. 11 with a variety of family events, including a pig roast. Proceeds will benefit the department.
Keith Anderson, who joined the department when he was 18, has served for 27 years and as fire chief for the past seven. His father, Kurt, had been a member of the department at the time he joined.
The Crosslake Fire Department, established on Feb. 11, 1967, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a pig roast and a variety of events on Aug. 11. Brainerd Dispatch/Jodie Tweed » Purchase reprints of this photo.
What keeps Anderson on the department is not only the camaraderie with his fellow firefighters but the feeling that he is making a difference in his community.
"It's the feel-good feeling that you've helped in a big or small way," said Anderson. "You've helped, and that's important."
Back in 1966, the village of north Crosslake - which later merged in 1973 with the village of Crosslake - decided to form its own volunteer fire department. North Crosslake passed an ordinance establishing the new department on Feb. 11, 1967. Don Anderson - no relation to Keith - was named the first fire chief. There were more than 40 charter members of the department, 16 of whom were over 60 years old and not necessarily active members of the department.
Al Yorek, the first assistant fire chief, was named fire chief the following year, and Francis Fraser succeeded him in 1969.
Fraser, a charter member, served 16 years on the department, 13 of those years as fire chief. There have been a total of nine Crosslake fire chiefs.
Fraser said North Crosslake had between 200 and 300 residents when the department was formed in 1967. Fraser said many people heated with wood and there were many more house fires than there are today.
Francis Fraser (left), a charter member and former chief of the Crosslake Fire Department, looked over scrapbooks about the department with his wife, Helen, who collected all the newspaper clippings while her husband was on the department. rainerd Dispatch/Jodie Tweed » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The fire department started with a fire truck and a used tanker, which was stored at C&C Boat Works until the old fire hall was built later that year.
The department now has two pumpers, two tankers, two grass rigs, one squad truck, one rescue van, one draft site pick-up with pumps, one ATV with rescue sled and two hovercrafts for cold water rescues.
Fraser said that before the dawn of pagers and cell phones, the fire department had only regular land lines. When a person would call to report a fire, the home phones of 10 firefighters would begin to ring incessantly at the same time.
Those 10 firefighters would answer the call and respond to the fire while their wives often began calling the rest of the fire department on their phone tree lists to notify them of the fire.
If you go
The Crosslake Fire Department will celebrate its 40th anniversary Aug. 11 with a variety of family events concluding with a pig roast dinner at the fire station.
The 6th annual Crosslake Days Classic Car Show runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Aug. 11 at the fire hall. Events include an all-day open house at the fire station with fire truck rides and families may meet firefighters and check out the firefighting equipment. Concessions are available all day.
Firefighters will serve free firehouse chili as part of the 21st annual Chili Cook-off, hosted by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber.
The pig roast, a fire department fund-raiser, will be 4-8 p.m. Aug. 11 at the fire station.
Those interested in participating in the classic car show may call Jeff at (218) 330-5160 for more information.
For more information about Crosslake Days and the many events planned Aug. 7-12, visit the Chamber Web site, www.crosslake.com.
If it was a particularly lengthy fire call, the wives would make sandwiches and coffee and bring them to the men.
"The wives really played an important part," said Keith Anderson.
"I got to where the phone would ring and I'd jump," said Fraser.
Fraser's father, Homer, would often man the phone at the fire hall. The department became modernized in 1982-83 when the phone notification system was replaced by pagers, said Anderson.
The Crosslake Fire Department has come a long way since the department began in 1967, when the first fire truck and a used tanker were purchased. The department moved from the former fire hall to the current Crosslake Emergency Services Center in 1991. rainerd Dispatch/Jodie Tweed » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The most famous fires in Crosslake involved its popular local hangouts. The former Log Jam burned down on Aug. 1, 1971; Moonlite Bay was destroyed by fire on May 30, 1984; and Manhattan Beach Club burned down later that year on Oct. 8.
On May 17, 1979, a gas leak at the former Echo Ridge caused a massive explosion that was felt two miles away at the Fraser's home on Anchor Point. The blast resulted in the loss of the attached motel, a garage and cabin, but the supper club, now Zorbaz Restaurant, was saved. Much of the city was evacuated.
The city has 26 firefighters, including two women, with 19 of them medically trained as either First Responders, EMTs or paramedics. It is now required that all firefighters be trained as First Responders, a tremendous benefit to area residents, said Anderson. He said about 75 percent of their calls are medical calls.
"People in Crosslake are very lucky," said Chris Leonard, a Crosslake firefighter. Before he moved to Crosslake three years ago, he was an emergency medical technician.
"It's a commitment, it's a dedication," said Anderson of being a firefighter. The city invests between $3,000 and $5,000 in training for every new member.
The department covers 37 square miles, including Crosslake, Manhattan Beach and half of Fairfield Township. Every firefighters carries a pager and is basically on call 24 hours, seven days a week.
Last year, they responded to 140 calls and their response time was just short of 11 minutes, said Anderson.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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