Five generations of firefighting in Wayzata

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2012 - 12:52 PM

The Klapprich family has been a mainstay of the Wayzata Fire Department. They'll be honored this weekend.

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From left, Kurt Klapprich (son, assistant chief) Paul Klapprich (father, retired chief), and Kevin Klapprich (son, current chief) at fire station.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Long before a fire station was a second job for Kevin Klapprich, it was a second home.

For years, he and his two brothers would stop by to see their dad or listen to his stories of fire calls around the city. It inspired all three to serve alongside their father at Wayzata's Fire Department, following in the footsteps of their grandfather and great-grandfather.

"We pretty much grew up in the fire station," said Kevin Klapprich, who took over as fire chief of the volunteer department after his father retired. "It just catches on."

The family with five generations of service to the Fire Department will be honored publicly this weekend. Paul Klapprich, 75, and his sons, Kevin and Kurt, will be recognized by the city as the grand marshals of the annual James J. Hill Days parade in Wayzata, leading it in a shiny red 1924 firetruck.

"It's just one of those families that has served the community as long as anyone remembers," Mayor Ken Willcox said. "And they pass it on from generation to generation."

The city's parade and festival won't just be celebrating the family's extraordinary service but the Fire Department's own feat reaching 100 years old. A beer garden, live music and street dance will kick off the centennial.

Peggy Douglas, president of the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce, is organizing the special tribute. "Everybody knows the Klapprich family," she said.

In Wayzata, popular Klapprich Park is named after Paul Klapprich's father, Ed, who was a city street superintendent.

This weekend's special recognition is an honor, the family said, but they also insist they aren't unique. Pointing at a plaque of past firefighters, they scan the other numerous brothers, sons, fathers and other family members who've served together.

"You look at the volunteer fire department rosters in Minnesota and you're going to find a lot of family members," Paul Klapprich said.

Added son, Kevin: "It's not just Wayzata -- it's a family thing for all fire departments."

Douglas, though, disagrees, reciting Wayzata history involving the Klapprich family from Ed Klapprich pushing the School District to start a hockey team, which he coached to the state tournament in its first year, to the brothers leading the department today.

"There's just this history of giving by this family," she said. "[They're] just the kind of people who are always there to help and care passionately about their community and family. It's pretty unique to have that many involved."

In the city of about 4,000, the Fire Department has 30 paid on-call firefighters who range from carpenters to a lawyer and a retired teacher. They respond to about 300 calls a year for fires, alarms, gas spills and medical issues, not just in Wayzata but parts of Woodland and Orono as well.

Paul Klapprich's father, Ed, was a firefighter for about a year following his grandfather, A.W. Day, who served in the department for 13 years. Paul Klapprich was fire chief and served 48 years while also working for Hennepin County. Of his five children, the three boys all followed him into the department. He's now semi-retired, but still driving firetrucks. "It keeps me young," he said.

Kevin, 52, serves as fire chief and works as a property manager while his brother, Kurt, 50, works for the city and serves as assistant chief. The brothers have been with the department for more than 30 years; their brother, David "Cookie" Klapprich, also was in the department for 22 years before his death in 2006.

Now, nephew Joe Carlson is the family's fifth generation to join the ranks. The 27-year-old is studying fire science at Hennepin Technical College and works for both Wayzata's and Minnetonka's fire departments.

"It's every little kid's dream to ride on a firetruck," said Carlson of Wayzata, who spent his childhood riding firetrucks with his uncles and grandfather. "I guess some of us stay 6 forever."

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib

  • IF YOU GO

    What: Wayzata's 38th annual James J. Hill Days.

    When: Saturday and Sunday.

    Details: Lake Street will have a street market and food trucks. The two-day event also includes dachshund races, coaster cart races, a parade, build your own boat race and charity car show. The Twin Cities River Rats will perform a water ski show. To celebrate the Wayzata Fire Department's centennial year, there will be a beer garden, live music Saturday and Sunday, and a street dance Saturday night.

    More info: www.jamesjhilldays.com

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