City OKs wildland fire agreement

City OKs wildlandfire agreement

20 December 2006

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USA — PortalesCity Council gave their OK on a new joint powers agreement with the New MexicoEnergy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department pertaining to reimbursement ofwildland firefighting costs at Tuesday’s regular meeting. But it came on asplit vote.

Portales Fire Department Chief Raul Muniz was present to make the request fromthe council and explained the state agency had recently informed firedepartments across the state new JPAs would be sent out by year’s end anddepartments and municipalities not signing the new agreements would not beeligible for reimbursement for fighting wildland fires on state lands.

“This is our main instrument for compensation for responding to wildland fires,”Muniz said.

Muniz told the council about several new requirements under the new JPA,including having certified fire officers on hand with maintainers and otherequipment not operated by firefighters. He also talked about a training additionthat would require all firefighters to hold a red card certification, whichrequires a physical fitness test where the firefighter must carry a 45-poundpack three miles in 45 minutes.

That requirement had been a big area of contention with rural fire departmentsin meetings held in October with the state. Most rural departments felt many oftheir volunteers might not qualify.

Muniz said that 90 percent of the PFD personnel have already completed the redcard requirements and the rest were expected to complete it before the agreementstarts.

“I’d just like to say that what state forestry is doing here is over-kill,”City Councilor Mike Miller said. “They’re throwing the baby out with thebath water here, especially with respect to the rural departments.”

Miller, a former firefighter and PFD chief, told the mayor, council and Munizhewas respectfully going to vote against the resolution ratifying the ordinance tomake a statement.

The council voted to pass the resolution 6-1.

Rural departments were still in a quandary over how they would handle theproblem.

“We have not really resolved anything,” Elida Fire Chief Adam Anthony said.“Some people have enough training to qualify to take the pack test.”
He said that he is working on getting others in the department the training, butsaid he doesn’t know when that might happen.

“There is not much we can do, just gotta roll with the flow,” he said.

Floyd Fire Chief Leland Terry said Floyd has not signed any agreements with thestate yet. He said they were supposed to get a 60-day notice of the currentagreement being canceled and that letter has not been received.

“There won’t be any changes until after the first of the year,” Terry said.

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