Too Few Volunteers May Close New Mexico Stations

Updated: 05-06-2005 04:13:23

Associated Press

SANTA FE (AP) -- San Juan County's fire chief says his department isn't attracting enough volunteer firefighters and might have to close some rural fire stations.

''We've reached the breaking point at some locations,'' Fire Chief Larry Marcum told the County Commission on Wednesday, warning he might have to shut down stations in remote portions of the county.

People have complained about slow response to calls, but Marcum said the problem is worse than that.

''Numerous calls have gone unanswered, some of them very serious,'' he said. ''I'm kind of at the end of my rope. We are going to have some serious problems here if we don't recruit more people.''

Parts of the county, largely near the Navajo Nation, are virtually unguarded because of lack of staff, he said. Shiprock, Newcomb and several other communities along U.S. 550 are most at risk, Marcum said.

For example, there are only seven workers respond to the more than 1,000 calls a year near Shiprock _ but there should be seven per shift, Marcum said.

He said the department needs at least 30 more firefighters. But, he said, people aren't willing to donate 12 hours a week responding to emergencies at all hours of the day and night.

''It's a huge commitment,'' he said.

His department is working on a plan to reimburse fuel costs to people responding in outlying areas, and suggested better pay as well.

''I'm fishing with no bait on the hook,'' Marcum said.