CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) - People in one New Mexico county better hope they don't have a fire or medical emergency.
One volunteer fire department has just closed in protest, and now most of the other volunteer fire departments could follow suit.
"I told them, 'Let's take a leave of absence,'" said Malaga Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Roy Burkham. "We're not responding to anything. We are not going anywhere or doing anything as of 7 this morning."
Burkham says Eddy County officials have failed for months to listen to volunteer department's concerns about the competency of the county's emergency manager.
At Monday's Fire Board meeting, Burkham took action and read a resignation letter to county commissioners. Burkham then left the meeting.
He says after he walked out eight of the other 11 volunteer fire chiefs followed.
Those departments are still open, for now.
Burkham, who'd been with the Malaga department for 19 years, has now been fired. He says the decision to close the fire house in protest wasn't an easy one.
"It will be hard. I'm sorry," he said.
He says it's so difficult because it puts the public in danger.
County officials say they've made arrangements with other volunteer departments to pick up Malaga's calls.
"I would be willing to gamble it's going to be very hard to get any fire department in the county to respond as quick or at all," said Burkham.
Eddy County commissioners held an emergency meeting Tuesday morning and fired both Burkham and Malaga's fire chief.
Another volunteer fire chief told KRQE News 13 the county's 10 other volunteer fire departments are holding a meeting Wednesday night, and he expects at least eight of them to close down in protest.
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