Firefighters follow in family footsteps
Danielle Fasching was scarcely taller than the tires when she began helping her father wipe down trucks after he returned from fire calls as a Minnetonka firefighter. Although she was often told she was too small, or not strong enough, she persisted toward her dream of following in her dad's footsteps. She succeeded, and for four years, worked alongside him before joining the Eagan Fire Department a year ago.
Jeff Bahrke and his twin brother John spent hours each week at Eagan fire stations helping their dad prepare sites for his work as Eagan's volunteer fire training officer. Eventually, the three worked side-by-side, regularly jumping into the same truck to respond to calls. Jeff has remained on the Eagan force for 31 years (John retired after 28) and last year became full-time fire Captain at Station 4.
Joe Ahlstrom was inspired to become a firefighter by the stories he heard as a child, of the heroic grandfather he never knew. The story of his mother answering the door at age 12 to learn her father had been killed in the line of duty was the stuff of legends to young Joe. He grew up visiting fire houses and firefighter memorials and the minute he turned 18, he did a ride-along. He concluded that a person's service and dedication to their community makes them part of a larger family. Ahlstrom joined the Eagan family of firefighters five years ago, and also serves as a volunteer firefighter in Mendota Heights.
Eagan Fire Chief Mike Scott spent years, from the time he was too small to climb into a fire truck, dreaming of the day he would put on the uniform and follow his father George into service as an Eagan volunteer firefighter. His sister, Linda joined the department, becoming Eagan's first female firefighter. When Mike turned 18 a few years later, he joined as well. He served as a volunteer for 23 years, many while working fulltime as a police officer. In 2006, Mike became Eagan's first full-time fire chief. He recalls thinking about how proud his dad would have been as he took the oath.
Mike Scott - Eagan Fire Chief
Deputy Chief Kip Springer believes it's important for the community to recognize some of the people behind the uniforms, and their traditions of service. "Whether it is part of a family legacy or simply as a commitment to help others, I think it's a part of our service to inspire future generations. Our firefighters do that every day."
He's looking forward to seeing firefighters following in their mother's, aunt's, and sister's footsteps one day soon.
Each of these firefighters agrees with Ahlstrom who says, "I would be honored to answer the door someday to a hopeful like myself and steer them towards the greatest career in the world."
Several other second-generation firefighters are currently serving, including:
Chago Huerta remembers seeing the joy his father Val gets from his career as a fire commander for the City of Woodbury Fire Department. As a kid, he helped his dad at a drill, acting as an EMS patient—and was hooked! Chago says, he knows he’s made the right career choice, because he’s happy at work as an Eagan firefighter every day. He hopes when he has kids, he can inspire them to become firefighters too.
Keegan Geske has been around fire stations his whole life, playing hide and helping his dad. His father, Gregg has been a volunteer firefighter for 30 years in Chanhassen. As soon as he could, Keegan volunteered for that department too. He says it was “when I ran my first call with my Dad where I fell in love.” From then on, he says it was application after application until he landed his “dream career” with the City of Eagan. “When I’m out helping the community, it is our firefighter family serving the Eagan community family.”
Rob Kewitsch has looked up to his dad as a role model his whole life. In his 20-years on the Richfield Fire Department, his dad, Wayne, served as a firefighter, lieutenant, assistant chief, and chief. Rob says, thinking back he believes he was always going to be a firefighter. He has now been a full-time firefighter in Eagan for the past year. “If you ask any firefighter around the country what they love about the career I guarantee you’ll hear about the bond experienced with fellow firefighters,” Rob explains. “Being a part of a team that helps people day-in and day-out is something few get to experience, and I know I’m especially lucky to get to do that.”
Fire Captain, TC Schillinger served alongside his dad, Tom for many years. Both were volunteer/paid-per-call firefighters for the Eagan Fire Department. TC was hired full-time several years ago and remains a strong member of the department.