Dona Ana County, N.M., plans to add paid firefighters.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Las Cruces Sun-News
Byline: Diana M. Alba
Apr. 26--Dona Ana County fire departments are hoping to make missed emergency calls a thing of the past.
That's one goal Dona Ana County Fire Marshal Paul Chavez told county commissioners his office plans to achieve with money from a new sales tax that goes into effect in July.
Dennis Pacheco, chief of the Dona Ana Volunteer Fire Department, said increased revenue will likely fund at least four firefighter positions for both Dona Ana and Anthony. Population growth in those two communities is overwhelming their volunteer fire departments, he said.
Pacheco said now, firefighters often have to pass up calls for aid, deferring them to neighboring volunteer departments.
"In my district, we're averaging 110 calls per month, but we're missing 20 to 25," he said. "That affects the safety of my community."
Pacheco said he's excited the department will get paid positions.
Chavez said he'll bring a resolution before commissioners in May to ask they dedicate about 42 percent of the new sales tax to county fire departments. The tax -- estimated to bring in about $1.2 million per year -- also will be shared with the sheriff's department.
Adrian Arias, fire chief in Anthony, said the understaffing situation is worse during the daytime because fire personnel are at work or school. Currently, about eight volunteers are active in the department, though 22 are registered, he said.
With the new money, "we'll be able to supplement what they do," he said.
Pacheco said the number of personnel hired will depend on the salary decided upon by the county's human resources department, which is currently creating a job description to advertise.
Chavez said he plans to hire the new firefighters by October.