After putting out fires for the past 13 years for the Wadena Fire Department, Cody Yglesias will now take on the role of Wadena Fire Chief.
Yglesias was interviewed by the Wadena City Council Tuesday, Jan. 14, and all were in favor of his hire to replace outgoing chief Dean Uselman. Yglesias was the only one to apply for the position and he was born and raised in Wadena. The former first assistant fire chief said he got into fire fighting because of his desire to serve the community.
“And Sammy Waln asking me,” Yglesias said of his fellow long-time firefighter. Yglesias added that he’s stuck with firefighting because of the group of guys and one girl that make up the department.
Council members took turns grilling Yglesias with a variety of questions, but being used to the heat, he calmly answered questions with no concerns over taking the new position. He said in recent years he felt he’d become prepared to take on the new role. It’s clear Yglesias devotes a great deal of his life to the art of fire protection and this adds to his growing plate.
He currently works for the county as a building maintenance worker. He is certified in fire 1 and fire 2, instructor 1 and officer 1 through the Minnesota State Certification board. He is now working towards instructor 2 and officer 2. Yglesias also teaches firefighter and hazmat training classes at Central Lakes College. He facilitates training at least one day a week at various fire departments. He also does several weekend training events as well as a week long training at Camp Ripley.
Taking the position of fire chief means he has to step down from the Wadena Fire Relief Association president position. The Relief Association and the fire department are separate entities. The Relief Association serves as the fundraising arm and the group that handles the firefighter pensions. Projects funded by the Relief Association include fire prevention, events like the open house during Fire Prevention Week and educational items.
With Yglesias moving out of the president spot, a few others moved around. New officers include: Shawn Swenson, president; Matt Rousslang, treasurer; Austin Beier, secretary; and Andrew Browne, trustee.
The council shared some information with Yglesias about the expectations of the role. Council member Bruce Uselman explained the chain of command in an incident including Chief of Police Naomi Plautz as the city’s emergency manager and Tyler Wheeler as the Wadena County emergency manager.
Mayor George Deiss said in the past there has been a lack of communication between the city and fire department.
“I want this to be a good thing, it’s not us against you guys,” Deiss said. Yglesias said the prior chief, Uselman, did a good job of improving the relations between the two groups.
Yglesias said he looks to keep lines of communication open and he hopes to use the city’s help to get the word out when the public needs to be aware of a situation.
“I just look for the support of the council and administrator moving forward,” Yglesias said.
The city also hired another firefighter Tuesday night, Jeremy Zaic. That hire brings the department to a full squad of 20 members.
As chief, Yglesias looks to continue to train the department in order to improve the safety of people and property. He looks to continue to help department members certify in new areas so they can step up into positions of need. When asked if he could change anything about the department, he said it would be more time for training.
The department includes some older, more experienced members. While former Fire Chief Uselman resigned from the chief position, he will remain an active member of the fire department. Yglesias said he looks to continue to listen to the experience of those members.