Sandoval County Fire and Rescue Chief Eric Masterson said his department’s new 7,500-square-foot facility was “a long time coming,” adding the building’s location and features will be particularly helpful when it comes to training or responding to calls. Matt Hollinshead photo.

BERNALILLO — Sandoval County Fire and Rescue Chief Eric Masterson sought to improve his department’s command and administrative operations in a multitude of ways, from being centrally located to upgrading communication efforts and training spaces.

Check, check, check, with the department’s new 7,500-square-foot facility.

At 301 Piedra Lisa Road in Bernalillo, near the intersection of US 550 and Rail Runner Avenue, the facility includes a new training room, ambulance bill reception area, break room and perimeter fence, as well as an 800-square-foot garage for equipment storage.

“This is a long time coming, and it’s been something that we’ve been hoping for, for many years now,” Masterson said, adding the previous facility was less than 2,000 square feet. “We were way overcrowded, so it’s an incredible opportunity for us, an exciting opportunity for us to grow and expand.”

He said the new building can better accommodate administrative and training operations under one roof, versus having employees go to different parts of the county.

For example, Masterson said the department previously used Station 21, on Santa Ana Pueblo, as the main training hub. He said the new facility means the department can go from roughly 20 people per training session to about 50 people easily.

“When we have large trainings, large recruits, that can all happen here now… The entire administrative support team is right here in this building,” Masterson said. “The fact I can walk to the emergency manager’s office or I can walk to the communications administrator’s office or the training chief’s, we can have conversations right now as they’re happening live, versus having to schedule time to go meet with them, find out where they are, etc.”

He said the new building’s internet connection is much improved compared to other sites his department’s previously used. He also said the new location means it’ll be easier to hop on US 550 or I-25 when going out on calls that need a commander on scene.

“We’re out the door quicker, easier,” Masterson said.

Emergency medical and fire services will still operate from the 19 stations around the county.

Masterson said having administrative and command operations all in one spot will significantly improve regular communications among employees, which he deemed a “game changer” in coordinating with the crews responding to calls.

“When it comes to emergency operations, communication is incredibly important in how you can efficiently manage and mitigate a scene or an incident,” he said.

Masterson said discussions to obtain the building started about a year ago, with the county officially taking over the building around late April. He also said the building was previously occupied by New Mexico Workforce Connections, Rio Transit and Rail Runner Express.

Masterson said the department will also be able to open the training space to partnering agencies if they need to host future sessions. He said the extra space will help with get-togethers involving other groups the county’s involved with, whether the chief’s association, regional dispatch, EMS bureau or Central New Mexico Community College’s advisory teams.

That alone would be a far cry from when the department hosted such events at Station 21.

“It was just incredibly snug. You were shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone,” Masterson said. “We’ll be able to separate and spread out in here, have a much more comfortable, relaxing meeting.”

Masterson also said the new building means the department can do more community outreach, such as CPR training classes or prevention classes.