Rep. Gail Armstrong working to support New Mexico firefighters
Santa Fe, NM- Representative Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena) has filed House Bill 238, legislation that would redirect funds back to the Fire Protection Fund. Currently the fund receives only 42% of fees collected, with 58% reverting to the general fund every year. Directing 100% of the funds to the Fire Protection Fund will help shore up local fire departments that have been operating on thin budgets for years.
In New Mexico, only 8% of fire departments are fully staffed by paid firefighters, leaving many communities to rely heavily on volunteers. Less than half of departments have the funds to pay volunteer stipends or compensation to cover meals or mileage. The Fire Protection fund ensures that local fire departments can purchase needed equipment, reimburse mileage and meals, and even ensure that volunteer fire fighters can be provided a stipend for their important work. New Mexico fire services are not equitably dispersed in the state, with many urban areas with full time staff and far more rural communities relying on volunteer departments. On January 31, 2021, Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Scott Wyland, published a story, New Mexico officials adjusting to year-round wildfire seasons, which outlines concerns from local officials over this year’s wildfire season.
“We cannot afford to allow New Mexico firefighters to be left by the wayside in a time when we are expecting year-round wildfire seasons,” said Rep. Gail Armstrong. “The fire protection fund is an essential source for New Mexicans to ensure that each our communities have protection during fire season and that they have the essential equipment to protect our communities and themselves.”
House Bill 238 will provide millions of extra dollars each year to fire departments around New Mexico, and has been assigned to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee for review.