Caballo Area Folks Bucking For Return of Ex-Fire Chief

Carrejo: Residents Better Served Filling Volunteer Firefighting Roster, Not Commission Chambers

By Tony A. Archuleta

HERALD Reporter

Sierra County Manager Jan Porter Carrejo announced about a month ago that Caballo Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mary Bates and two firefighters were being dismissed from their posts due to violations of the county’s fire administrative ordinance.

Carrejo went out of her way to stress that the department was being reorganized and not shuttered, but following an RV fire on Oct. 30 within the fire district, about a dozen residents showed up at Friday’s, Nov. 9, County Commission meeting to register their displeasure.

Denise Addie Villa Gomez presented to the commission a petition to retain Bates. Gomez said she was “dismayed and disappointed by this action.”

The fifth-wheel belonging to Sue Daniels was destroyed in the blaze, but a report by Larry Brownlee, chief of Las Palomas Fire & Rescue, which responded to the incident, found unsafe conditions involving propane tanks that were both in use and in storage.

In fact, Sheriff Joe Baca credited three deputies, along with a county resident, for bravely and quickly moving the tanks out of harm’s way, and potentially saving nearby structures.

Villa Gomez said the so-called closure of Caballo fire station will result in a $900 year increase on her home insurance premium.

She criticized the “reckless disregard of the administration in closing the fire department and jeopardizing all of Caballo.”

Another woman who spoke leveled charges of “gross negligence,” prompting commission Chairman Walter Armijo to discourage speakers from taking “potshots” at county employees. “We, as a group, are responsible (for Carrejo’s decision to remove the trio of firefighters),” he said.

Moments later, a man nearly crossed the line between freedom of speech and verbal assault in admonishing Carrejo and the commission.

Mid-tirade, he placed his hands behind his back, daring Baca or the three deputies, who were in attendance to receive their certificates of commendation, to take him into custody.

To read the rest of this article, call (575) 894-2143 for an e-subscription.


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