When the call came in for an active structure fire, Jeremy Bourasa responded as any dedicated St. Paul Park firefighter would. He joined first responders from Cottage Grove, Newport and Woodbury to contain an ugly inferno that all but destroyed a home at Hidden Valley Terrace in Cottage Grove.
He’d been married less than an hour.
Bourasa and his fiancée, Krista Boland, had just exchanged vows at the St. Paul Park fire station, where he works as a paid-on-call volunteer firefighter.
“We have an in-house alarm throughout all Washington County,” Bourasa said. “It’s a certain tone that tells us if it’s a medical or a fire. The dispatcher came on. They were calling for mutual aid.”
At first, the bride looked ready to chew a brick. But she wasn’t going to stand in his way. Fire had taken its toll on her own family.
“We actually talked about what if they were to get a call the day of the wedding ahead of time and I told him, ‘You better not even think about trying to leave to a call on our day,’” Boland recalled.Hot enough already
It was a sweltering afternoon, with temperatures near the mid-80s. The fleet of fire trucks had been pulled out of their bays to make room for the seats, flowers and bunting. A DJ played music from a laptop.
Bourasa and Boland had been together 11 years and had been engaged for five. But attempts to set a date and book a venue - Turtle Lake in Wisconsin, Hope Glen Farm in Cottage Grove - were abandoned, for one reason or another. Boland, who was in nursing school, couldn’t abide the extra stress of planning a wedding. Her grades were slipping, she said.
“We decided to postpone the wedding till after I graduated,” she said. “Once I did, and with the budget we had, the cabin in Turtle Lake just seemed to be perfect. It’s where we got engaged, but having it there would have meant we could only have 100 guests due to size.”
St. Paul Park fire chief Kurk Lee gave the OK to use the station for the wedding. A date was set. Guests were invited. They booked the reception at Willie’s Restaurant at Hidden Harbor Marina in St. Paul Park.
This time, for sure.The Fireman’s Oath
The minister, Bourasa’s friend Dustin Cortez, pronounced them man and wife. They were posing for photos when the call came in.
“When they call for mutual aid, you just kind of know,” Bourasa said. “You just know that they’re short men. They have guys there, but it’s a very draining thing. Hoses are heavy. Tensions are high. The adrenaline push that you get, it can be exhausting.
“You can go in and out a couple of times, depending on your oxygen tanks,” Bourasa said.”Your tanks will last maybe twenty minutes, 15 minutes for a bigger guy. A medic will check oxygen level and blood pressure. There might be some guys there, but they might be taken out because their blood pressure is too high to go back in.”
“I could hear the guys saying they needed more men, that it was getting really bad,” Boland said. “I looked at him and saw the look in his eyes, I knew he needed to be there and because we have family who literally lost everything from a fire.”
Her sister, Kelly O’Connor, served as maid of honor at the wedding. O'Connor and her boyfriend, Tim Foster, were burned out of their home on Dayton Avenue in St. Paul Park in October 2015.
On June 12, 2016, Foster’s brother, Brian Foster, lost his children, Aaron, 11, and Kathryn, 9, in a fire in Columbus, Ohio. The two were visiting their aunt. They were supposed to return home June 11 but wanted to stay an extra day.
“It’s obviously rocked the family to the core,” Boland said. “I think it has made (him) that much more passionate about saving people.”
The groom suited up and climbed aboard pumper truck 3154. The wedding party waved them on their way. Boland went to the reception.
“Everyone was completely understanding,” she said. “We all took a moment to say a prayer for the safety of the firefighters and the family whose home it was.”
After two hours at the fire scene, Bourasa went to the reception. He entered through a side door. He received a standing ovation. The bride and groom posed for more photos and had their first dance.
Chances are, few will forget this wedding.
“I had an experience that no one has had,” Bourasa said. “You get married at your
firehall, you get called to an active structure fire and put it out and still get to go to your reception.”