The Velarde, New Mexico Fire Department is in the news again, this time because it has been placed on “probation” by the State Fire Marshal for not submitting NFIRS reports.
State Fire Marshal John Standefer reported that approximately forty fire departments state-wide failed to begin submitting NFIRS reports online by the required deadline. The departments could face a number of sanctions including loss of fire equipment purchased with state funds, having their assets frozen, and ineligibility for future state firefighting funds.
Recall Velarde’s former fire chief, Eddie Velarde, was arrested on March 29, 2011 by a county deputy sheriff at the scene of a wildland fire, resulting in control of the scene being turned over to county officials. He subsequently beat the charges at trial and filed a wrongful arrest and abuse of process suit against county officials.
Shortly thereafter the county removed him as chief amidst charges that he used an incorrect social security number to obtain an EMS license and submitted inaccurate information to obtain a grant for his fire department. The department was also reprimanded by county officials for allowing an engine to be used to carry the coffin of a deceased member in a funeral procession.
County officials appear all too pleased with the latest controversy. County Manager Tomas Campos told reporters “I don’t know why they don’t just follow the rules… We keep telling them to file these reports and they won’t do it. … It’s completely unfortunate for the residents of Velarde… I just don’t see what route we can take that won’t have me in court.”