It’s been more than 20 years since Sandoval County Deputy Fire Chief Carlos Chavez first thought of becoming a firefighter.

Sandoval County Fire Chief Eric Masterson, left, bids farewell to retiring Deputy Fire Chief Carlos Chavez on Chavez’s last day with the county March 29. Courtesy of Sandoval County.

Chavez said the notion of serving his community came along after he struck up a friendship with a neighbor in Corrales.

“He invited me to go to a volunteer firefighters’ meeting, and two weeks later, I had my first structure fire,” Chavez said. “We had to get on the roof of the structure, and I thought, ‘This is awesome,’ so I continued.”

Chavez was a volunteer firefighter for 14 years and worked for various agencies along the way before joining the Sandoval County Fire & Rescue team, he said.

“I got to come to a job that I loved to do every day that a lot of people don’t understand most of the time,” he said. “One of the best parts of the job for me was being able to help people and be part of the community.”

Chavez said he considers being a firefighter the greatest job in the world and has felt lucky to be part of the county fire department for over five years.

To honor his time as firefighter, county Fire Chief Eric Masterson arranged for Chavez to take his last ride from Station 21 in a ladder truck to the Zia Fire Station on US 550 and then home to Rio Rancho.

Upon Chavez’s arrival to his street, he was greeted by friends, family and long-time co-workers. Per tradition, Chavez did his last call on the radio in front of a crowd of his peers, who cheered him on as he exited the ladder truck in uniform for the last time.