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Lt. Ben Sanchez expects his cross country team to win state this year. Sanchez is a 20 -year veteran of the Los Alamos Fire Department who retired Saturday morning.
He’s coached the Penasco High School boys cross country and track teams just north of Espanola for several years but starting tomorrow, Sanchez intends to devote much more time to his avocation.
“We’ve ranked in the top four in the state for the last four years,” Sanchez said during an interview Friday. “This year the team is really, really strong so we are contenders for state.”
The well-known firefighter discussed his final 48-hour shift and how he imagines it will feel to leave Fire Station 6 for the final time.
“When I walk out I’ll try not to look back,” he said. “I’ve spent a third of my life here and we’ve become a family – I’m really going to miss them.”
LAFD was going through the transition from the Department of Energy to Los AlamosCounty when Sanchez began his firefighting career. “It was a lot of chaos and now the department’s much more organized,” he said.
The most difficult memories Sanchez will take into his retirement are of the Cerro Grande Fire in May 2000 and the homes that were lost. “We worked for 14 days straight, and what sticks out in my mind was not being able to do enough. No matter what we did it seemed like it wasn’t enough,” he said.
The highlight of his career was serving as an instructor for the Firefighter’s Academy during the last five classes. “The last two classes I was the lead instructor and I really enjoyed working with the new recruits,” he said.
Sanchez also will have an opportunity to spend more time with his wife Annette and four children.
His children are Amanda, 24, Nicole, 21, Ben III, 20, and Haley, 12. There also are two new additions to the Sanchez clan; 17-month-old Christopher and 1-year-old Isabella.