NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Local fire departments are getting a record amount of money from a state fund. That’s because of a change to a state law and higher homeowners insurance rates, a cut of which goes into the fund. 

Small departments could really use the extra money. Fire departments used to share about $6 million a year from this state fund.

“So this is the highest we’ve ever done is the 29-million and it really benefits the departments around New Mexico because we have a lot of rural departments,” says State Fire Marshall Randy Varela. 

One-hundred-and-twenty-two fire departments around the state, many of them in small towns, will split up that money. A couple of years ago, the legislature changed a law to expand the funding from the state. 

Part of a tax on homeowners insurance that was meant for fire protection efforts around the state was actually going into the General Fund. Now it’ll go to fund new equipment, facility improvements, hydrants, and firefighter training around New Mexico.

Departments such as Valencia County say the money will help them buy new fire trucks. “To be able to purchase these vehicles without the grant would be, if not impossible, at least very tough. So this allows us to start catching up with that aged fleet,” says Valencia County Fire Chief Matt Propp. 

The new law also allows fire departments to apply for $25,000 in stipends to help them with recruiting firefighters. Valencia County says this part of the grant will help them pay their volunteers. 

In Sierra Bonita-Rincon in Mora County, the fire chief says they will no longer have to rely on outside help, which can often take up to an hour to arrive. “The members of the community, the homeowners, notice on their insurance bills that surcharge for fire protection, this is just to let them know that it is going to a good use and we’re very grateful to have the opportunity to get this grant,” says Sierra Bonita-Rincon Fire Chief Mickey Richardson.

The Sierra Bonita-Rincon Fire Department says, due to supply chain shortages, they won’t be receiving their fire truck for a couple of years.  

Higher homeowners insurance rates are also fueling the increased funding. Fire departments in 31 counties received the funding.