In some people, the call to service runs deep. Frank Trapanese, paid on call firefighter for the Red Wing Fire Department, has been answering the call for 40 years. This year is Frank’s last with the RWFD; after four decades of serving the Red Wing community, he’s retiring from duty. Through his time with the RWFD, he’s seen a lot of changes in both the Fire Department and the city, and he has some incredible stories to tell.
Frank has been intrigued by firefighting since childhood but didn’t join the ranks of the Red Wing Fire Department until years after returning to Red Wing from college. He hadn’t actually intended to return to his hometown after graduating, “but I met my future wife [at college], and that was it,” he says, chuckling. As a paid on call firefighter, Frank feels he had the best of both worlds—he pursued his own career, but still got called in for the “big stuff” or, as he refers to it, “putting the wet stuff on the red stuff.”
Frank’s passion for firefighting really shone through when describing his first major fire. “It was the Knutson Trucking fire off Old West Main,” he recalls. The burning tires he was spraying were like trick birthday candles, reigniting every time the hose moved off them. Eventually, the fire was brought under control and Frank had a revelation. “I was standing knee deep in smoking, stinking rubble. It looked like something from Dante’s Inferno and I was thinking that I’d died and gone to heaven, because this is what I’d always wanted to do.”
With decades between them, Frank’s last fire holds just as much significance as his first. During a call to a house fire earlier this April, he saved the life of the homeowner’s cat. During a primary search of the second floor, Frank heard faint mewing as he crawled on hands and knees through the smoke. After finding the house clear, he returned to the room and found the cat. “I scooped it up and got it outside. We put an infant mask on it and it recovered,” he says, smiling. “If you can salvage some meaningful thing, like a living pet, it’s a good thing. I think I ended on a good note.”
As he looks toward retirement, Frank has no regrets about his time with the RWFD. “I loved every minute of it and I enjoyed every aspect of it,” he says firmly. “If age wasn’t a factor, I’d just keep on.” Frank leaves behind an incredible legacy of service to the Red Wing Fire Department; thank you for 40 years of dedication to our community.