Firefighters’ wives form new auxiliary

FAIRMONT — A group of Fairmont women is reviving an organization that faded away about 15 years ago. The women, all married to members of the Fairmont Fire Department, have formed the Fairmont Fire Ladies Auxiliary.

The group will make its official debut Sunday by having a game booth for children during Interlaken Heritage Days activities at Gomsrud Park.

In a two-month time period at the end of 2017, a pair of events left the firefighters’ spouses searching for a purpose, for a collective way to support their husbands. The first was the sudden death of Mike Miller, who had served on the fire department for many years. The second was the devastating blaze at the Northrop elevator that required a three-day round-the-clock battle in frigid temperatures to extinguish.

Joan Hartwig had been active in the former auxiliary until her husband Ron retired from the fire department in 1988 after 29 years of service. She is glad to see the formation of a new group.

“I think it’s just great,” she said. “The auxiliary used to be very active. In those days, when they had a big fire, like when the Sweet Shoppe burned, we made sandwiches for them and took them coffee and cold drinks.”

She also remembers when Fairmont hosted the Minnesota State Fire Convention, and the auxiliary was charged with organizing activities for the spouses.

With her son, Cade, now a member of the fire department, her daughter-in-law, Beth, is following in her footsteps with the new auxiliary.

Beth Hartwig, Sara Cyphers, Tanya Hargan, Nancy Campbell, Leslie Wokasch and Sarah Hilpipre form the core group of auxiliary organizers who want to instill a sense of cohesiveness within the fire department families that goes beyond gathering for the department’s annual picnic. When they get together, they freely share what life is like being married to a fireman. It’s commonplace for them to be stranded at church, a movie, a sporting event or anywhere if their husband’s pager goes off, and he immediately departs for the fire hall. Some couples take two vehicles to an event to avoid the problem.

They talk about interrupted meals, being jarred awake by the pager in middle of the night or having to make a small child wait until their dad gets home from a fire call to open their gifts on Christmas morning.

The women talk about these things, but they are in no way complaining. They are proud of the commitment and bravery of their spouses, Cade Hartwig, Luke Cyphers, Paul Hargan, Ross Campbell, Reed Wokasch, Tom Hilpipre and all firefighters.

And that is why they want to go a step further. The auxiliary is looking for volunteer opportunities as well as fundraising. They hope to buy teddy bears or toys, blankets and other comfort items for fire and accident victims.

For more information on the auxiliary, contact any firefighter or their spouse or email saracyphers@ or