A compromise in Santa Fe has a big affect on volunteer fire departments in Eastern New Mexico. Those departments rely on outside funding to keep equipment in top working order, but new rules were going to make it difficult.
A recently passed bill resolves a long dispute between the New Mexico State Forestry Division and area fire departments, one that threatened to cut funding if new requirements were not met. Under House Bill 507, state commanders can not be held criminally liable if a firefighter gets injured, or worse, killed fighting wildfires in other parts of the state. The change was in response to lawsuits across the nation filed by relatives of deceased fire fighters.
Before the bill, the state wanted firefighters to pass a rigorous physical fitness test, one the local departments say was just not practical for their aging members.
Chief Paul Luscombe of the Dora Fire Department said "That pack test involves a three mile hike and you have to cover it with a 45 pound pack on your back for 45 minutes, which that pretty much alleviated a lot of people in my department". The state agreed to remove the test, if the department's agreed to relieve them of that liability, a compromise.
Now area fire departments can count on state funding necessary to keep their equipment up and running. Luscombe added "We utilize the money we get from state forestry to maintain our wild land units to build our wild land units and to provide our people with wildland fighting gear and wildland fire fighting training...all in all this has been a really good compromise". State Representative Keith Gardner sponsored the bill. He added "Working together like this everyone kind of came together, and instead of everybody fighting like it was before we started now there's a real strong spirit of cooperation.