From ski bum to professional wrestling photographer to fire service, this real-life Wonder Woman has a zest for life! She loves to to experience new places, new cultures and meet new people. By day, she’s the Minnesota Deputy State Fire Marshal, Fire and Life Safety Educator for Youth Fire Prevention and Intervention (YFPI). But in her free time, you might find her sewing, digging in the dirt or planning her next adventure. Who knows where–or what–it might be?
Please, allow me to introduce you to Kathi Osmonson!
KR: Hi Kathi! Would you please tell us about what brings you joy and fulfillment?
KO: The most joy and fulfillment in my work comes from youth fire intervention. I work with families of and children who start fires. It is not about the fire these days, it is more often a cry for help. Something in their lives is not working and they are calling attention to it by starting fires. Starting fires gets attention. Digging deep under the behavior and helping the families figure it out is not easy, often messy, and very rewarding in the end.
I love working with the families and also teaching others how to do the work.
Before C19 I was on the road speaking on the topic internationally.
That was my retirement plan, to be a traveling professional speaker. While I am a professional speaker, we will see how this traveling piece unfolds in the future. It is all new, now.
KR: How did you become involved in firefighting and fire service?
KO: I never dreamed of becoming a firefighter…After my undergrad studies at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, I went to Breckenridge, Colorado, to become a ski bum and a freelance photographer. At the time I had a gig with a Japanese magazine, photographing pro wrestling – American Wrestling Association, Verne Gagne style. I later hooked up with SnoVideo and made videos on the slopes, including the Jimmy Carter family at one point.
When I expanded SnoVideo to Crested Butte I didn’t know anyone there yet. The fire department was offering free first responder training in exchange for one year of your life volunteering with the fire department. I thought with my back country lifestyle; hiking, biking, camping, skiing… it would be good to know what to do in case someone fell off the mountain and cracked their head open, so I signed up. It was 1987. Firefighting got into my blood immediately and I fought fires until 2012 when I accepted the state fire marshal position.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
KO: I tend to see into people’s inner selves. Insecurities masked by bullish exteriors, lots of that in the fire service. I like to nurture those insecurities and help people become their best selves.
I also feel like I have the superpower of protection. A year ago I was in a head-on car crash. I saw it coming and it was inevitable. I said “we are not going to die today” and mustered up a protective bubble. We both walked away from that notoriously fatal “Wigwam Bay” curve in Mille Lacs MN.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
KO: Besides Wonder Woman, Mary Tyler Moore and Lara Croft? My grandmother, mother and mostly my daughter inspire me.
From birth Bryanna was a strong and old soul. She has always had an amazing sense of style and sense of self. Now she lives in Seattle, rides her bike everywhere, she doesn’t own a car, setting a good example for saving the planet from carbon emissions. In the current situation of Covid and civil unrest, she delivers farm fresh produce to those in need, on her bicycle. And she is working full time as a “real” urban planner with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and promoting alternative transportation in the Seattle area. She takes long bike rides with her friends, races on a crazy bike circuit, I got to see her win last year, and she climbs (moves) mountains. Bry truly is my inspiration.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
KO: If I could have another superpower, I would like to be invisible. It would be fun to creep around and spy on people. Not in a bad way, just another way to understand other life perspectives.
KR: What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?
KO: I love to travel. This has been the hardest part of C19 for me, not being able to experience and learn about the world.
I travel with my family, Dad and Brother mostly, and sometimes with Mom, too. I love learning about other cultures, their beliefs and life views. It helps broaden my life view.
My son and I were planning a trip to Vietnam this fall, not happening this year, hopefully it will happen in the near future.
I traveled with my children a lot before they grew up, got real jobs and moved away. Looking forward to them accumulating enough vacation time to travel with me again.
During this time I have gotten into my garden. Dirt therapy is healing. Time alone in quarantine has been painful and good. Time to re-group and understand what is really important. Not the standard answer of “How are you?” “Busy”…
I am looking forward to more alone time to explore my sewing, knitting and drum-set…
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
KO: You are amazing. It is all good. Follow your heart, trust your gut, and stay true to your path. Relax, you are fine. Take risks, and be careful. Be true to yourself.