Taxpayer dollars possibly paid for firefighter accused of stealing to attend academy

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A New Mexico firefighter who was let go after he was caught stealing from his department may have gone back to firefighting school on the taxpayers’ dime.

A little over a month ago, KRQE News 13 told viewers how the firefighter was let go for a theft a few years back.

A closer look revealed the department was paying for his training just a few months ago.

It was 2015 when Erik Bloom was caught stealing funds from the La Luz Fire Department in Otero County.

โ€œFor a period of time we were tracking what we thought was a fuel theft,โ€ said Otero County Emergency Services Director Paul Quairoli back in March.

This past February, a letter to the state auditor showed Bloom had admitted to $73 in theft. When asked if charges were filed for the theft, the county said, “no.”

โ€œAfter that, he was suspended, he was ordered to do community service hours,โ€ Quairoli said.

Quairoli said Bloom was never allowed back after those claims proved to be true.

The county commissioners even held a special meeting after the story aired, criticizing KRQE News 13 saying “the incident is more than two years old and had long been resolved.”

However, KRQE News 13 found receipt after receipt with Erik Bloom’s name on it, dating to just a few months ago.

The county paid more than $1,600 for Bloom to attend a firefighter training school in Socorro in October and November, long after the county said he’d stopped working for them as a firefighter.

An Otero County commissioner told KRQE News 13 she had no idea how that happened, and she would get back to News 13 in the coming days with more information.

KRQE News 13 then called Norm Bloom, Erik Bloom’s dad, who was the fire chief of La Luz at the time the county signed off on his son’s training in Socorro.

Bloom didn’t want to answer any questions, except to say News 13 is causing a lot of damage to the citizens of Otero County.

Norm Bloom recently resigned as the chief.

KRQE News 13 also called the county’s emergency services director to find out who signed off Erik Bloom’s training last year, but he did not respond. 

The New Mexico Fire Marshal’s office said that in order for a firefighter to attend the academy, they must be sponsored by a fire department.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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