County Vows to Assist Abiquiu Fire Department Get Back On Track

On April 16, Commissioner Danny Garcia of District 3, held his first successful town hall meeting in Abiquiu to discuss community needs and concerns with citizens. County officials who joined Commissioner Garcia included County Manager Tomas Campos and Assistant County Manager David Trujillo.

Local fire department leadership and member recruitment seemed to be the hot button issues as attendees spoke about the topic for most of meeting. The Abiquiu Area Emergency Services Project (AAESP Inc.), a local non-profit group, which according to their website, assists Abiquiu Fire Department to cope with the increasing demands due to expanding population and denser traffic, was present and showed much concern as they offered their assistance in department recruitment. Currently, the department has only four active members and must have at least 12 members on the roster, which is required by the state and can possibly affect ISO rating.

“What is our next step so we can move forward?” asked Dr. Fernando Bayardo, board president of AAESP Inc. “We cannot have a fire department without volunteers.” Bayardo and Sam Jewell, another AAESP Inc. member, said they have 16 people who have filled out applications for the fire department and are willing to coordinate events to sign up more. According to County Public Information Officer, Erika Martinez, Jewell has recently informed the County that an additional six have already filled out applications, which have been received by County Fire Marshal Jerome Sanchez for review. According to fire district bylaws, provided through the County’s website, applicants must be willing to have a background check performed, and eligibility may be determined on the individual’s proximity of their home to the fire district.

Thus far, the department receives no state EMS funding due to non-compliance. But what was evident in the meeting was that residents were determined to keep the department alive and were willing to put effort into the process. According to David Trujillo, the County is developing a comprehensive plan to recruit volunteers. The first step is appointing Jerome Sanchez as Abiquiu’s Fire Chief until the department comes into compliance and members are able to elect a new chief. Thus far, Sanchez has contracted maintenance crews to perform a massive cleanup and has begun sorting through files to determine what fire equipment is available and member profiles could still be considered active. Plans have already gone into action for the County to meet with AAESP Inc. and collaboration has been agreed upon to successfully get Abiquiu FD back on its feet.

“As many of you know, we went through something similar with another one of our fire departments,” said Trujillo, referring to the Velarde Fire Department, who recently elected new chief, Kenneth Trujillo. “The community was willing to work with us and we were able to reinstall order and now that department is running smoothly. I believe we can do it again.”

Commissioner Garcia was thanked by attendees for taking the time to listen to their concerns. “We are here to help you in any way we can,” he said. “I hope to get this department back on track and am willing to do what it takes to make that happen.”

-Erika L. Martinez, April 2013