Los Alamos County Fire Department was most impacted in 2018 by the unplanned retirement of three of its chiefs. Division Chief Paul Grano, Battalion Chief Joseph Candelaria and Training Division Chief Mike Gill each retired.
“They moved up their retirement after the County wasn’t able to fund raises for non-union and management positions due to uncertain revenues from GRT but did fund raises for union members due to existing labor agreements,” Fire Chief Troy Hughes said.
The department did promote several of its members including James Thwaits to Safety Division Chief, Matt Munoz to Captain and Sam Meyersick to Driver/Engineer.
Multiple wildland fire deployments were another top story in 2018. LAFD firefighters are highly trained and called upon for assistance in fighting wildland fires including the Ute Park Fire between Eagle Nest Lake and Cimarron in May. Wildland Division Chief Kelly Sterna said at the time that the speed with which that fire grew from 150 acres to close to 10,000 acres was scary. The department has been conducting defensible space education throughout the community.
LAFD’s fire apparatus situation has been a bit of a challenge in 2018, Hughes said.
“We replaced two engines, but struggled to keep trucks in service,” he said. “Our newest ladder truck has been out of service since April 2018 and one of our newest engines received in September is still out of service.”
Despite the gap left by those retirements, Hughes summed up 2018 saying, “For the year, I would have to say LAFD maintained delivery of exceptional service to Los Alamos County and LANL thanks to the hard work of all LAFD team members.”
LAFD is the third largest career fire department in the state of New Mexico. The department provides a multi-disciplined, multi-dimensional mission of fire, rescue, emergency medical, public education and life safety services to the citizens and visitors of Los Alamos County. Included in the services LAFD provides are the protection of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL),a large nuclear research and development complex; protection of the communities of Los Alamos and White Rock; and assistance in the provision of emergency response for an extensive urban wildland interface.
LAFD was organized under the Manhattan Project in April 1943. At that time, it consisted of seven civilian firefighters and 25 volunteer firefighters. In September 1943, the firefighter functions were taken over by the military. The Fire Department was governed by the US Atomic Energy Commission and the US Department of Energy (DOE) until the Incorporated County of Los Alamos took it over in September 1989.
Today, LAFD operates six fire stations with 150 budgeted positions, 130 shift firefighters including three shift Battalion Chiefs, nine Chief and Staff Officers assigned to days and 13 civilian support staff.