Volunteers make up the bulk of New Mexico’s rural fire departments, and Magdalena is no exception. Leading the crew of volunteers in Magdalena is recently appointed Fire Chief Cody Kersey. When he’s not answering calls or involved in bi-weekly meetings at the fire station, Kersey works on the Montosa Ranch. Last weekend, with his two children in tow, he took time before assisting with spring calving to speak with the Chieftain.
Where were you born and raised, and what brought you to Magdalena?
We moved here to Magdalena in 2017. I am originally from the South Valley in Albuquerque. After high school I had a full rodeo scholarship for Bareback Riding at Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, but that ended when I had a horse flip over on me and hurt my neck.
So you left school after losing the scholarship?
After my injury, I figured, “you know what? I want to be a family man, so I better let this go.” My granddad, Jim Kersey, had passed away in early 2004 and he was a father figure to me. So I came back to help my grandma, and went to work at TLC Plumbing. That’s where I met Kayla (Armstrong). We’ve been married now for 12 years. I was a supervisor by the time I left TLC after 14 years.
Is that when you first became a volunteer fire fighter?
We were living in Bosque Farms, this was while I was still at TLC. I made some friends there and I’d expressed to Cody Dear that I grew up around fire departments. His dad, John Dear, was Fire Chief at the Peralta Fire Department, and said, “Why don’t you come sign up?” I came home and told Kayla I joined the fire department. That was in 2013. I used my three week vacation time to become certified in CPR First Aid, Hazmat Operations and complete Firefighter 1 classes at the Fire Academy in Socorro.
You said you grew up around fire stations?
That all started as I was growing up. My granddad was a Bernalillo County Fire Chief for District 3 in the South Valley. You might say I was kind of a junior firefighter with him. It seemed like I was at the fire station all the time with him. In fact, all three of my uncles were firefighters, and my dad retired as a San Juan County Sheriff’s officer. So first responding is kind of in the blood.
Tell us about the fire department in Magdalena
We have 15 on the roster. It’s not as busy as Peralta, but I’m with my family more. Around here it’s mostly EMS calls. Older people falling, or heart attacks. Jim Nelson is our EMT, and does everything within his scope of certification, but every firefighter has to know the basics of it what the EMT is doing. A couple of weeks ago we went over training with the ambulance, where Jim walked everybody through and showed them where everything was in the ambulance. That way, if the call is something like a car accident and he’s working with the patient, he can send a firefighter to the ambulance to get what he needs. He’s not getting pulled away from the patient. His focus is that patient. My goal by 2021 is to have at least five certified fire fighters.
With whatever free time you have, what gives you the most satisfaction?
Besides being with my family, I like to be out on the ranch. Keeping busy outside, generally. I actually guide for my brother-in-law, Eric Kern Outfitters. I guide elk hunts for him. As for the ranch, I take care of what needs to be done. I help with the cattle, but I also take on projects Dale (Armstrong) needs. And the kids love coming with me. Anytime he’s not in school, JD’s usually with me if I’m going to the ranch.
So your children are involved with animals, too?
Abby is nine and J.D. will turn 11 in April. They’re both in 4H and will be showing their livestock, which means they have responsibilities. They have to go out there and feed their animals, keep their pens clean. Abby raises pigs and lambs. JD has a steer. One thing they don’t have are cell phones. I just got elected to the Socorro County Fair Board, so it’s a family thing.
What other activities do you share with your family?
Other than working with livestock and the ranch? We watch Chicago Fire every Wednesday night. To me, my family is the most important thing.
Is there someone you consider a mentor?
My grandad, Jim Kersey. I was with him all the time at the fire station. From him I learned the rewards of hard work, and don’t go about starting something unless you’re going to finish it. The same goes for John Dear. After my grandpa passed away, he has been like another father figure.
How can you contrast living in Magdalena with Albuquerque?
Living in the South Valley can be easy in some respects, but sometimes it’s a lot harder. It’s a different life here, a different kind of community. People around here wave.