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Still fired up: Ted Krull has lengthy legacy on fire department

Ted Krull stands by the vintage fire truck that was still in use when he joined the Sibley Fire Department. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 2
Ted and Ruth Krull sit in the back porch of their home in Sibley, Iowa. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)2 / 2

SIBLEY, Iowa -- He's been retired for a number of years, but Ted Krull still dons his standard work uniform -- a pair of denim overalls -- just about every day.

"I always did carpenter work, and I grew up on the farm," Ted explained about his attire.

The only other uniform Ted has ever worn is that of a volunteer firefighter. Ted joined the Sibley Fire Department in 1950, and at age 91 he's still an honorary member today. That's 62 years, giving Ted one of the longest current firefighter legacies in Iowa.

"There was one other fella that was on longer than I was, but that was a couple years ago," Ted said.

"We don't know if he's still living or not," added wife Ruth about the other Iowa firefighting veteran.

When Ted joined the department in February of 1950, he and Ruth had been married for seven years, and he was working as a carpenter.

"At that time, we had 15 members, and one of them resigned, so they came and asked me," Ted recalled. "One reason they asked me is, whenever there was a fire, I was there anyway."

"In those days, they just blew a whistle from the plant when there was a fire," explained Ruth. "All the kids ran there, too, because everyone in town knew there was a fire."

The occasion of Ted's first fire department meeting is especially memorable, Ruth noted, because it was the night they picked up their first adopted daughter. The Krulls have three adopted children and also raised two nieces. They now have eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

As a carpenter, Ted was generally available whenever a fire call was sounded, although there were some periods of time when his work took him out of town. For about 10 years, he built bridges during the construction of Interstate 90, and he also worked for a period of time with a contractor in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"Just weekends and nights," he said about his availability during those times. "But I don't think I missed very many fires."

In the course of more than six decades, Ted has witnessed a lot of fires, but a few stick out vividly in his mind.

"The second year I was on, there was a dray business, and the Morrisons who owned it also lived there," he said, explaining dray businesses hauled items such as coal. "On Thanksgiving night, we got called out there at midnight. At that time, we didn't have to wear uniforms like they do today. The building had front windows in it, and you could see Mrs. Morrison sitting in a chair. I went in to get her. They tied a rope around me, and another guy was to follow me. But she was already gone. I picked her up and carried her out and gave her to some other fellows. There was a doctor's office next door, and they took her there."

Almost exactly a year later, Ted volunteered for another such rescue mission during a downtown Sibley fire.

"The highest building on the north side, it was a café, and when we got there the stairway going upstairs was already burned out," he said. "I went up to get the woman who lived upstairs, and another fireman I worked with as a carpenter went up behind me. When we got up there, she was bound and determined not to go out the window. How was she going to go down those burned-out stairs?"

Ted and his buddy finally coaxed the woman out the window and down the ladder, but she clung to each rung as they descended, he recalled with a chuckle.

Ted served as fire chief for eight years in the 1980s and was first assistant chief for many years before that.

According to Ted's recollections, Sibley lost three elevators to fire over the years, and he was also on hand when the school burned down.

"I know it was wintertime because it was cold out," Ted said. "At midnight, I went back to the fire hall, and my gear was frozen solid, and I was solid ice."

Ted no longer has to worry about fighting wintertime blazes, although he continues to attend the department's meetings when possible, and he rode in the department's vintage White fire engine a few weeks ago during Sibley's Good Ole Summertime parade. The truck was still in service when Ted joined up, and now it's been restored.

"Two months after I joined we got the new one, and we retired this old one," he explained. "Somebody else bought it, and they remodeled it. It's not the same as when we had it. But whoever had it put it up for sale, and a couple of the firemen went and bought it and hauled it home from Minneapolis. When we first got it, sometimes it would run, sometimes not."

Unsure of exactly when he retired, Ted continued to do carpentry work around town until a few years back. Ruth was in charge of the senior citizens center for 25 years and also did the community news for the local radio station for a time. They were active in the Presbyterian church and many community endeavors. In addition to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the Krulls were also host parents to a number of exchange students over the years and continue to stay in touch with some of their international friends, including one who is a German ambassador currently stationed in Nigeria.

With age, however, the Krulls have been forced to slow down. Ruth depends on a walker to get around, and Ted spends a lot of time in the four-season porch addition on the back of the house, wishing he could do something more productive.

"We got slowed down very fast on the fifth of May. That's when we had a serious car accident," Ted explained, referring to a crash that happened when another vehicle turned in front of them as they returned from a trip to Okoboji, Iowa.

The Krulls escaped the crash with some cuts and bruises and had to replace their vehicle, which was a total loss. They still go on short excursions, but tend to stick close to home. The forced inactivity is obviously frustrating to Ted.

"I hate sitting in this chair," expressed Ted. "I can't do anything, but I want to do something."

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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