Three Eddy County volunteer fire departments received nearly $1 million from the New Mexico Fire Grant Council.
The grant was part of $20 million awarded to more than 100 New Mexico fire departments in fiscal year 2022 Fire Protection Grant funds, read a news release from the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM).
“We’re way excited,” said Eddy County Fire and Rescue (ECFR) Chief Josh Mack.
He said the $814,000 in state money gave Eddy County the option of not using fire excise tax funds for the three projects.
Mack said $400,000 would pay for construction of a new fire station for Happy Valley. The current substation is outdated and the new facility would be built near the McNew Subdivision north of Carlsbad, he said.
He said the Queen Volunteer Fire Department, located in the Guadalupe Mountains, received $300,000 for a new truck and Loving’s Volunteer Fire Department received $89,000 for a fill station for firefighter’s breathing air compressors.
Mack said ECFR is scheduled to receive another $25,000 from DHSEM for firefighter recruitment, retention and education.
He said the Eddy County Board of County Commissioners should give final approval Nov. 2.
Commissioners approved a grant application for the funds Sept. 21.
Brian Sayler, DSHEM spokesperson, said the $20 million figure represented a substantial increase from $6.6 million distributed in fiscal year 2021 due to a New Mexico Senate bill introduced during the 2021 Legislative Session by Sen. William Burt (R-33).
Senate Bill 256 (SB 256), the Fire Protection Fund, was bipartisan legislation that reversed a 2017 law which required that 60 percent of the potential funding for the Fire Protection Grant be reverted to the General Fund instead, read the legislation.
Burt introduced the legislation Feb. 1. It was amended March 8 and passed the New Mexico Senate 38-0. The New Mexico House passed the bill March 20 and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the legislation April 7.
“Fire departments have access to 100 percent of the available capital in the Fire Protection Grant. SB 256 also created a new category of grant funding, which enables volunteer fire departments to apply for $25,000 stipends to assist with recruiting, retaining, and educating the next generation of firefighters,” Sayler said.
Deputy State Fire Marshal Randy Varela said the grants were an historic investment in New Mexico departments.
“Our office is grateful to both the Legislature and Gov. Lujan Grisham for working so hard to secure this critical funding,” he said.
“We would also like to thank the members of the Fire Grant Council for their fierce dedication to this process. We are confident these awards will provide essential support to fire departments across the state. Most of all, these funds will help our firefighters protect the people of New Mexico and stay safe in the process,” Varela said.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at MSmith@currentargus.com or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.