NMSU firefighters turn 100

Students train with the New Mexico State University Fire Department. (Courtesy of the New Mexico State University Fire Department)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico State University Fire Department celebrates a milestone this year.

The department, which protects the campus and provides mentorship and on-the-job training for students, is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Willie N. Preciado, a physical factory employee at the university, founded the department in 1921 and became its first fire chief. The department started out as a fully voluntary enterprise, but today has 20 paid positions, 14 of which are students.

“What is to say is that there was a hodgepodge of fire departments,” said Deputy Chief Louis Huber. “They thought we should be able to protect the buildings that were here. “

Captain John Guerin said it’s rare for a university to have its own fire department, as most depend on city departments. The NMSU Fire Department assists city and county fire departments. Guerin said 70% of the calls they answer are off campus.

The ministry is not only responsible for fighting fires. Guerin said 75% of their calls were medical. They are called in for vehicle extractions, respond to gas leaks and reported alarms, and take care of campus fire prevention, which includes inspecting sprinkler and alarm systems.

Fire Chief Johnny Carrillo said one of the department’s most recent accomplishments was to improve its Insurance Services Bureau score from 4 to 2, with a 1 being the best. He said insurance companies often rely on scores to determine fire service rates.

The department became an educational arm of the university when it began hiring and training NMSU students in 1964. Students receive training and hands-on experience working with seasoned veterans.

Carrillo said firefighting is a competitive field and the NMSU program gives students a head start over applicants who typically have no experience.

“The program allows them to explore a career in firefighting,” Carrillo said. “… This makes them well qualified to become a firefighter after they leave. “

For Huber, one of the best things about reaching the 100-year milestone is looking back on the legacy and impact the department has had on students. He said it’s amazing what happens to students after leaving the program.

“We had a brigadier general, a surgeon, engineers,” Huber said. “They are all very efficient and very dedicated. This service makes a difference in the lives of these young men and women, and in the community.

The department has immediate openings for student firefighters. Applicants must be registered at the main campus of the NMSU or at the Doña Ana Community College in Las Cruces. Visit fire.nmsu.edu to apply.

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