Wadena firefighter elected Deer Creek fire chief
The Deer Creek Fire Department recently elected Andrew Browne to serve as its fire chief. In 2019, Browne also joined the Wadena Fire Department.
WADENA — Those in the Wadena-Deer Creek area are twice as likely to see Andrew Browne fighting fires.
The newly-elected Deer Creek Fire Protection District chief is also a Wadena Fire Department firefighter. And if that isn’t busy enough for the 32-year-old Wadena resident, he is also the Deer Creek branch manager of Wadena State Bank.
“There's nothing that says you can't be in two departments at all in Minnesota,” Browne said. “In Deer Creek, I got another member that's in two departments, too, so it’s becoming more and more common.”
The Deer Creek Fire Department elected Browne to serve as its fire chief, a decision that the City Council supported with a 4-1 vote during a recent meeting. Browne replaces Travis Collins.
“I serve in the capacity of a secretary firefighter for Wadena and then subsequently I serve as the new fire chief for Deer Creek as of Jan. 1. … Both departments are paid, on-call departments,” Browne said.
The fourth-generation banker joined the Wadena Fire Department in December 2019. He was promoted to fire department secretary the following March and with a background in law enforcement as a sheriff’s deputy and 911 dispatcher.
“As fire chief, you are responsible for oversight and management of department operations, and personnel,” Browne said. “You're also in charge of the fire department budgets as well as writing grants and securing the outside funding for the department.”
Collins became a Deer Creek Fire Department captain after his term as fire chief ended, according to Browne.
“A lot of rural departments around here still do have what I call the time-honored tradition of voting members for our elected positions,” Browne said. “In Deer Creek, we actually have several different positions that are elected.”
Those other elected positions include an assistant fire chief, a fire captain, a rescue captain, a training officer and a safety officer.
“How our elections work is every year in November, firefighters can nominate another firefighter for a position, so every year every position — it's a one-year term, you know, Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 – that's voted amongst our peers internally within the fire department,” Browne said.
The Deer Creek Fire Department consists of 17 firefighters, which includes the six officers who are elected, and three reserve firefighters, according to Browne, who has been with the fire department since June 2017.
“It’s an excellent way of giving back to the community,” Browne said. “You know you kind of give some for what you're given.”
Browne was certified as a fire investigator this past summer.
“By statute, the fire chief of a department is actually the lead person in charge for investigating all fires within our fire district, so we do work with the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office on most cases,” Browne said.
The fire department, on average, responds to 80 to 90 calls annually, with the fire station responding to 78 calls in 2022, according to Browne, and because there is no ambulance service in town, a bulk of what the department responds to is related to medical emergencies.
“It’s a good way of giving back to the community … being able to help out in different disasters and with different needs so that's kind of a unique aspect,” Browne said of being a firefighter.