Beau Cappelen, 28, is a member of the Wahpeton Fire Department. He took time out to answer some of our questions and share what it means to be a member of the all-volunteer organization.
Wahpeton Daily News: How long have you been a firefighter?
Beau Cappelen: It’s been 11 months, going on a year.
Wahpeton: Had you ever been a firefighter before coming to Wahpeton?
Cappelen: I had not.
Wahpeton: What inspired you to become a firefighter?
Cappelen: I just wanted to become part of the community, get involved while giving back.
Wahpeton: Did you ever have any family who had been firefighters?
Wahpeton: Did you know any firefighters before taking your role?
Cappelen: A few of my neighbors when I was growing up were on rural volunteer fire departments. I’ve actually known a few guys on this fire department before I moved to town.
Wahpeton: Where are you originally from?
Cappelen: Corcoran, Minnesota, which is about 25 miles north of the Twin Cities. I went to college here in Wahpeton and I work in Fargo. I’m a forklift mechanic in West Fargo.
Wahpeton: Who were some of the local firefighters you met first?
Cappelen: Around here, the Mitchell crew. I actually knew the Mitchells, Brandon and Tyler, and Ryan Smith. He actually ended up being my mentor in the fire department. They had said it was a good group of guys to work with and a good group to be part of, so they kind of pushed me towards this.
Wahpeton: How does mentoring work for firefighters?
Cappelen: What you first join on, you have someone who’s been on for a long period of time help show you the ropes, including putting on your gear and the tools. They’re kind of like a guardian, almost, with the step-by-step help. They’re not doing anything for you, but they’re helping you along the way.
Wahpeton: How long does the mentoring take?
Cappelen: The first year (as a firefighter) is probationary. Right away, it’s a lot more involved, because you have more questions and need more help. As your year goes on, you learn as you go. But if you have questions, you can still ask anyone. Everyone’s always helpful.
Wahpeton: In an average call, how many firefighters do you work with?
Cappelen: Every call varies. I’d say you’re interacting with 15-20 firefighters during a normal call.
Wahpeton: What would you say was one of your more memorable fires?
Cappelen: I’d say the most recent Masonite fire (which occured in June 2021 and involved a large amount of burning hay bales). That was an experience. Just the physical size of the fire, how much was burning. It was figuring out about getting water right away, setting up your trucks and what’s the best method of getting water to the fire.
Wahpeton: I imagine your training is ongoing.
Cappelen: During your first year, they’d like you to receive a Fire I certification. Sometimes it’s not offered right away, but once it is offered, they’d like you to complete that. I’ve gone through it. Also, on the second Tuesday of every month, we train as a department. Last month, we had driving school. The month before that, we did drafting. Breckenridge came and helped us draft.
Wahpeton: It sounds like there’s some community coordination.
Cappelen: They’ve actually been working more with Breckenridge and Dwight to help with drafting. They do more drafting then we do because more of the places that they go to don’t have hydrants, while our places do. It was interesting to see and helpful to learn from them.
Wahpeton: Were you able to get your certification locally?
Cappelen: We actually did it right here. We did a lot of training with Dwight and Wahpeton, so we split between the two halls and then we did our testing here in town. They came to the south side fire station.
Wahpeton: Do you do any EMT work or is it strictly firefighting?