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Gov. Susana Martinez has announced that New Mexico’s new military veteran’s fire crews will become a permanent program beyond this fire season, following its success during the 2013 fire season. The governor made the announcement at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park in the bosque at the same location she announced the pilot program last April.
The Veterans Fire Crews Pilot Program trained and employed nearly 40 military veterans as wildland fire hand crews over the summer. Martinez announced that an executive budget request will be made to provide for 60 slots to train veterans to help fight fires.
“I’m very pleased with the results of this program so far and the great job these men and women continue to do, protecting lives and communities across the state,” said Martinez. “It is our plan to move this program forward and expand it as our state continues to face increasing wildfire danger each year.”
The pilot program was developed by the New Mexico State Forestry Division, working collaboratively with the New Mexico National Guard and the Departments of Veterans Services and Workforce Solutions to address the need for more wildland firefighters in the state.
Following their first assignment on the Piedra Fire that broke out on the west face of the Sandia Mountains on May 2, the crews were dispatched on 12 additional assignments, including the Tres Lagunas, Thompson Ridge and Silver Fires. Today, a crew of 10 firefighters is assigned to help fight the Stable Fire near Jemez. Two additional crews are on their way to the Deschutes National Forest near Redmond, Ore. to assist with new fire starts.
Martinez also lauded the efforts of all the local, state, federal and tribal fire crews that continue to fight fires around New Mexico this season.
Following the announcement, Gov. Martinez recognized two New Mexico State Forestry staff members who recently helped firefighters in Arizona following the tragic deaths of 19 firefighters during the Yarnell Hill Fire.
The two State Forestry staff members, Socorro District Forester Doug Boykin and Division Fire Prevention and Outreach Program Manager Dan Ware, volunteered to help the Arizona State Forestry Division following the deaths of 19 Hot Shot crewmembers from the Prescott City Fire Department on the Yarnell Hill Fire in July.
“I was deeply saddened by the news of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew deaths, especially since just days earlier they had been in New Mexico fighting the Thompson Ridge Fire,” said Gov. Martinez. “I was pleased that we were able to help Arizona’s Forestry Division, their firefighters, and the people of Arizona, in their time of need. Doug Boykin and Dan Ware did an excellent job of representing New Mexico and helping fellow fire staff in a time of crisis.”