NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Valencia County Fire Department is overwhelmed. It’s seen a nearly 50% increase in calls since last year. They’re doing their best to fill the gaps by hiring more people. 

Fire chief Matt Propp says all those calls are covered by 12 full-time firefighters and 25 volunteers. They cover all the unincorporated areas of Los Lunas, Belen, Peralta, and Rio Communities all the way to Highland Meadows.

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Right now they only have enough manpower to operate one station full time. The others are staffed when volunteers are available.

“Our crews run about 500 calls a month so what we’re finding is our current career staff was taking that workload pretty heavily,” said Propp. “Our single crew, the way it’s structured right now is running 30-35 calls in 48 hours, and when you think about the amount of time they’re on a call, that can be two days with no sleep.”

Chief Propp said the increase in calls is a result of a growing county. They’re working to add six more full-time firefighters to the department. This will allow them to assign six firefighters to each of their three stations. The county is paying for this with federal funds from the American Rescue Plan.

“Using that money to be the right now solution and then starting January 1 of 2025, the county will absorb those positions,” said Propp.

Chief Propp says when they did have vacant positions, they had trouble filling them. They used to require previous firefighter and EMT training. Now they are doing more on-the-job training.

Applications open next week, they hope to hire new firefighters by early November.