Aged station crowds firefighter's work, lives

RIO RANCHO (KRQE) — While Rio Rancho firefighters work to keep the city safe during emergencies, they say their own station and living quarters are well behind the times.

That is just one of a long list of reasons that has fire officials calling on the state to fund a station renovation.

Rio Rancho Fire Station 1 is the busiest in the city, with firefighters responding to an average of 11 calls a day.

Now, they're asking for help from the state to update what has become these men and women's second home.

Officials say the sewage system is going bad, and even the station's own fire-protection system is outdated.

"Those are standard things any business would have to upgrade, so we have to prepare to do that now," says Rio Rancho Fire Chief Michael Meek.

He says the station was built in the 1980s for the Department of Public Safety and was never meant to house the average of eight people living there at a time now.

That is why most beds are only separated by lockers with women and men sharing living space.

Capt. Valerie Soto says women can go across the building to change in private bathrooms, but there is not always time for that.

"Unfortunately when we have calls, we don't have time to go across the station to change, so we all have a common respect for each other," she says.

Women will sometimes open locker doors or hang up a sheet to block the view, she adds.

Soto gets her own room because she is a captain, but it doubles as her office.

"When I'm trying to do meetings, it's in my bedroom, so, it is a little awkward," Soto says.

Fire officials say both the city and the county will request $1 million from the state for a complete station renovation.

"Firefighters are here one-third of their lives, which is why we want them to renovate the station so it is comparable to all others in the city, where we can be proud of the location where our people are having to live and respond to emergencies," Meek says.

The chief says the department has been asking for a renovation for years, but tight budgets prevented the city from making it happen.

He is hopeful the state can help. If the state Legislature does decide to fund a renovation, fire officials say they probably won't see that money until at least next summer when the next state budget year begins.

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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
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