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May 2024

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URGENTLY NEEDED: Taos County Fire Fighters And EMS

In the small towns of Taos County, communities have depended on volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel to respond to calls for service for generations. Unfortunately, that trend has become a challenge to maintain.

“We’re lacking volunteers county wide, whether it’s municipalities or a small county community we’re just not getting the responders we need to go on calls,” says Taos County Fire Chief Michael Cordova.

While there is no specific reason to pinpoint the shortage of volunteers in Taos County, the first responder personnel shortage is a problem nationwide. A 2019 estimate done by the National Fire Protection Association shows more than half of firefighters in the country are volunteers, and numbers across the board are down. Cordova recognizes volunteer fire fighting can be a dangerous job, but notes the responsibilities a volunteer can hold are vast and can vary. “Volunteering can be more than holding a hose. People could help us out on medical calls, they can do traffic control, there’s a vast array of things besides running into a fire,” Cordova says.

Low volunteer numbers could pose many risks to communities, especially in Taos County, where resources are spread out between 17 Fire Departments . Cordova hopes increasing their volunteer cadre will ensure multiple calls for service can be answered when people need help the most. The county is looking for people who might be able to respond to a call during the day, but also could be available at any time. Cordova notes this could be a pivotal career step for youth in their teens and 20s who might have an interest in a firefighting and EMS career.

Taos County Fire Marshall James Hampton underscores the impact a changing society has had on their ability to count on people to respond to calls during the day. “We have an obligation to provide services to the community and right now it’s very difficult to meet those obligations. People have lives, they have jobs and the days of being able to leave your job to cover a call are over,” says Hampton. For this reason, he says the need for volunteers now, more than ever, is a predominant one to ensure Taos County communities remain safe.

Cordova and Hampton say a dedication and passion to serve are essential in this role. “We need to send the urgency out to our people that we need help,” Cordova says. “It is strict and we ask a lot. People will be required to train regularly. It’s easy to say you’ll volunteer, but hard to be dedicated and really want to do this.” While recognizing the commitment can be a lot for volunteers, Cordova underscores the reasoning, “it is a hard ask, but when someone calls 9-1-1, they need our help, and we need to be there for our community.” As an incentive, volunteers have the chance to earn retirement benefits after 10 years of service.

Are you interested in becoming a volunteer with the Taos County Fire Department?

For more information contact:
Mike Cordova, Taos County Fire Chief
Office: (575) 737-6469 Cell: (575) 779-3447
Email: mike.cordova@taoscounty.org

“Finding committed volunteers to serve our rural communities is a big concern. I joined at age 62 to fill a void after retiring from the building trades and to give back because I’ve been so fortunate. While we really do need younger people who are fit and strong, healthy retirees are also welcome. I’ve been able to give 10 dedicated years, responding to countless emergency calls. Through this effort, I’ve gotten to know people I never would have met. The satisfaction gained from helping people who can’t help themselves keeps us humble and vital. In rural settings like ours where medical facilities are far, volunteer firefighters and first responders truly do make the difference between living and dying. Join us!”

Regan Schwartz
Firefighter & First Responder, Latir Volunteer Fire Department

“Relief efforts for big disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, are not the only emergencies that require a lot of fast-acting resources. For us it could be a motor vehicle or recreational accident, gas leak or explosion, heart attack, or overdose – at any time of the day or night. For the people involved, this is a major disaster! With volunteer numbers dwindling, who will respond? Who will be available to help turn a tragedy into a blessing? Many of us can say ‘yes’ to become a volunteer, but will you? Do it as a team – sign up with friends or cousins! The benefits will outweigh the sacrifice. And the skills you learn can be applied to all facets of your life. We look forward to meeting you soon.”

Cynthia Najim
Firefighter & First Responder, Latir Volunteer Fire Department