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Fire district staff shuffle settles

After close to 10 months of musical chairs, the Cloquet Area Fire District staff and board members celebrated a slew of promotions and other moves that have the district almost on stable ground in terms of staffing.

CAFD chief Jesse Buhs said in many cases, a promotion led to a vacancy that was filled and created more vacancies behind it. A case in point, Buhs was appointed interim chief in December and officially got the job in March.

A new assistant fire chief position was created, and former district training officer Corey Larson was approved for that position in June.

With Buhs' promotion and the retirement of battalion chief Gordy Meagher, two of three battalion chief spots opened up; promoted to those positions were Jason Maki and Mike Garberg. Other promotions included Capt. Justin Jahr and fire equipment operator Chris White. Completing their probationary period to become firefighter EMTs, or medics, were Alex Munoz, Jackie Rosenholm, Dan Brzeskiewicz, David Pyrlik and Pat Wherley.

Fire district officials and family members celebrated those appointments at a special ceremony before the board meeting Wednesday, Aug. 17. All were sworn into their new role and a family member or co-worker came up to pin their new badge on them.

"It's always important to have folks permanently assigned to roles," said Buhs, referring to the fact that many had stepped into roles on an interim basis before their permanent appointment.

"It gives them an opportunity to take off and move forward in that role," he added.

Firefighter/medic Jacie Wissbrod was also recognized Wednesday for completing the paramedic program and obtaining her licensure. Dr. Ken Ripp received a plaque and lots of gratitude for his 27 years with the District as the medical director.

In the meeting that followed, board members praised the formal ceremony, which Buhs said is an important way to recognize the work the CAFD employees do, and the roles they fill within the fire and ambulance district.

The board meeting was the last one for two board members, Doug Wolf and Jason Paulson. Wolf, who represented Cloquet, is being replaced by Erik Thorp, who was also present Wednesday. No one has been appointed yet to replace Paulson, who represented areas of both Thomson and Twin Lakes townships.

Made up of the member communities of Cloquet, Scanlon, Perch Lake and Brevator, CAFD also provides structural fire protection under contract to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The total area covered by the fire district including the Reservation spans 170 square miles. CAFD also provides ambulance service to a state-mandated area of more than 250 square miles in Carlton County and southern St. Louis County.

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