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PR Fire Department gets first female firefighter

Crystal Krautkremer(Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Park Rapids' volunteer fire department is 26 strong, 25 men and the first woman on the squad.

By the time the Enterprise is at your table today, hometown native and PRAHS grad Crystal (Craig) Krautkremer will have passed her exams with flying colors.

"I'm not too concerned," she said. "I do very well at tests."

She's certified as a Firefighter I and can handle hazardous materials, which is just about everything these days, including milk.

"I absolutely love it!" said the spunky 28-year-old. "I'm thrilled to be part of the department!"

But not only has the department acquired its first female, it also got its first husband-and-wife team. Crystal's husband, Kasey, has been on the squad two years.

In recruiting Crystal, the squad now has a seasoned law enforcement veteran.

"I was a Missouri firefighter and police officer," she said. "I'm an EMT so I'm with Hubbard First Responders."

She also works two jobs in Park Rapids.

When asked if she's too busy to keep the pace, she said. "I've made more than I've missed that's for sure," of fire calls.

For Crystal, it's been a seamless transition. The Park Rapids native grew up with the new generation of firefighters.

"I know a lot of them from high school and stuff," she said. "I've had a pretty good running friendship with everybody forever so it wasn't hard to get to know everybody again."

She's been readily accepted and readily praised.

"She's doing a great job," said Ben Cumber, a remark echoed by the entire department.

Because she fit in like family, there have been no awkward moments or privacy issues.

Dressing is a community sport.

"We run in, take your shoes off and your boots are already inside the pants. You jump in and the pants are over the boots so you slide them on, put the suspenders on, put your coat on," she said.

The turnout gear fits over your clothing so no locker room scenes occur.

"They have everything separated so there is a guy's and girl's bathroom and typically because we're not a full-time department we'll just go home and shower off" after a fire, she said. "We are able (to shower) at the station if we need to.

"I have my own locker and I have my own gear so my stuff is separate," she added. "That was so we can keep our own stuff clean and not worry about sharing it."

The 80-hour course she finished this week was conducted at various out-of-town fire departments, so she's glad life will slow down from here on.

But she also brings another asset to the table.

"I've done dispatching before," she said. "I've done quite the gamut of positions in law enforcement. Guys who've never been a dispatcher have no idea. I totally understand what dispatch is looking for, what they know and then I can put that to use and ask the right questions from my end, and from the EMT end. I know exactly what they're getting slammed with so I don't bother them and I know how to get the information across."

After high school, Crystal attended college at Mankato State, where she majored in law enforcement and sociology.

In high school Kasey Krautkremer asked her out on a date. She turned him down.

"I left right after high school and was gone for four years and ended up getting married and living in Missouri for four years, so I was gone a good eight or nine years apart from the summers I came home from college," she said.

Patience paid off for Kasey. The two got together after college.

"My husband was in the Air Force and he decided to get out of active duty and we really wanted to get back so we were closer to friends and family. Being in Missouri was a long-distance thing and I'd much rather start a family up here and be closer to everybody."

Family right now includes Kasey, Crystal and a dog, not to mention her extended family around the county and inside the fire hall.

"She fits right in," said chief Donn Hoffman.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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