Sandoval County Fire and Rescue released its annual report for 2022 last week.
Sandoval County Fire Chief Eric Masterson presented the report at the April 12 Sandoval County Commission meeting.
“2022 was an interesting year as is with every year with fire and emergency management,” Masterson said. “We finally came out of the pandemic and started moving forward, albeit at the beginning of the year, there was a lot of COVID-related items that were still being addressed. We were finally able to start moving forward on a number of topics and tasks and ideas that we had kind of put on the backburner for the last couple years due to the pandemic.”
Fire and Rescue is a combination department with a staff of 150-200, depending on the amount of volunteers. Forty of those employees work full time, and 10 are part-time workers. Masterson said the department relies heavily on volunteers, which can fluctuate between 100-250 people depending on the time of year and the department’s recruitment effort.
Masterson said Deputy Chief Sean Kissane played a pivotal role in bringing in volunteers last year.
“The volunteer process had kind of been put to the side due to the pandemic. We were really focused on working through the pandemic and take care of the situation at hand,” Masterson said. “We did rely on some volunteers, but it was few and far between. In 2022, Chief Kissane really took an effort to revamp the onboarding process for our volunteers and brought on something like 50 volunteers in six months after he was promoted. So we saw a huge influx. Hopefully, we can retain those volunteers. That’s the challenge. When we recruit volunteers, we saw a huge increase after the pandemic and people wanting to get back to the community, and that’s actually really exciting news.”
Masterson also praised Office of Emergency Management manager Theresa Greeno, who was very involved with the the Cerro Pelado Fire that burned 45,605 acres in the Jemez Mountains last year.
“Theresa oversees the management and the Emergency Operations Center and she also single handedly was able to recover almost a million dollars last year between pandemic funding, grant monies, things of that nature that she did in the year that she was here,” Masterson said. “She has opened up a lot of opportunities, a lot of different doors for the county board’s department moving forward, which seems to be greatly beneficial to the citizens and visitors in Sandoval County.”
Masterson also thanked the commission for supporting the department’s ability to move forward with several new acquisitions, including two new brush trucks, three water tenders and four ambulances. He said a partnership with Public Works also led to department’s emergency vehicle technician program, which is a first for Fire and Rescue.
“In 2021, we sent out over $100,000 worth of work in third-party maintenance facilities in Albuquerque,” Masterson said. “Last year, we did not send a single truck. Our emergency vehicle technician was able to do 100% of the work in-house. So that’s been a huge success. It’s been a cost-neutral program for the county. And we’ve been able to utilize prior funding through the partnership with Public Works and it has been a cost neutral program that is showing credible benefits.”
Some other highlights and stats from the report include:
- 3,173 incident responses by Rescue and EMS
- 919 “good intent” calls
- 117 calls for fires, 45 of which were structure fires
- Bernalillo had the most calls by far with 2,021. Placitas had the second most with 422
In 2023, Masterson said the department will continue to focus on recruiting and keeping volunteers and hopes to do more community outreach initiatives, like CPR classes.
“We want to continue to look at opportunities to recruit and retain volunteers. We are very well aware that, for the foreseeable future, will be a combination department,” Masterson said. “So we need to find unique, creative ways to not just recruit our volunteers but retain them.”