How To Become A Firefighter In New Mexico

How to become a firefighter in New Mexico is a question I’m regularly asked by aspiring firefighters in the southwest.  The state of New Mexico is unlike any other in the US with its dramatic landscape and deep cultural ties to its Hispanic roots.

There are times when you can travel through the state and may think that you’re in Mexico or Spain because of the architecture and culture.

Despite these differences, there are many of the same requirements to become a firefighter as you will find in other states.

How to Become a Firefighter in New Mexico

  • 18 years old
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • High school education
  • Resident in the jurisdiction
  • Physically fit

Generally speaking, smaller departments as well as volunteer departments will require little more than these basic qualifications.

Career positions may be subject to tougher requirements further along the hiring and screening processes. Check with your chosen department to see what you need to do to meet their own standards.

Below I will talk more about these departments and the fire academies in New Mexico. I also want to discuss some other tips about language skills and specialist disciplines.

One quirk that I want to point out with the requirements for Albuquerque is that all applicants under 25 must be registered for selective service.

If you didn’t know, Selective Service is mandatory anyway for those between 18 and 25. So, this shouldn’t be an issue. It is just interesting that Albuquerque chooses to point this out.

Perhaps they feel that it is a sign of good character if you can prove you are willing to serve the nation

Firefighting in New Mexico

Bi-lingual firefighters are in demand in New Mexico due to the demographics and primary languages spoken in the states.

Statistics from the 2010 census show that as many as 994,000 Hispanic residents are living here.

That actually equates to 48% of the state’s population. It is recommended that those that can’t already speak and communicate in Spanish take classes.

These classes could prove to be essential when helping out communities that mostly speak Spanish. A few simple phrases can help you explain situations, calm citizens and get them out of danger with greater ease.

On the other side of the coin, there are sure to be many Spanish-speaking citizens from different minority groups that would love to join the fire service but aren’t sure if they’ll be able to.

However, New Mexico embraces those with Spanish as a first language. Below, while talking about some of the different training academies in the state, I will highlight some of these opportunities.

Wildfires in New Mexico.

New Mexico is arid, hot and prone to wildfire as the grasslands become dry. One spark in the wrong place can cause chaos. There are two approaches to tackling wildfire in the state and new firefighters need to be able to handle both.

The first is education. A community-minded, friendly crew member can pass on vital knowledge to the public to prevent careless accidents. Fewer tossed cigarettes and careless summer fires mean fewer threats.

The other is to train in wildland management to handle fires as they occur. The right strategies can keep fires away from people and property.

Fire Academies in New Mexico

If you’re interested in training to become a New Mexico firefighter, there are several academies across the state. There are many community colleges that will offer certificates or associate degrees to help new applicants get their start in the fire service.

Many departments will also have their own training divisions where volunteers can improve their knowledge and skills.

The University campus in Roswell is home to a Fire Science course where students can earn an associate degree in applied arts and sciences.

The course is open to people that are already a part of the fire service and want to improve their skills and knowledge. The faculty here offers courses in three areas.

Emergency Medical Service courses will improve an individual’s knowledge of life-threatening emergencies and help them deal with casualties.

Structural Firefighting looks at dealing with buildings and other large structures that may be at risk in a large fire.

Then there is the wild land training for wildfire control. Successful students can transfer credits into a Bachelor’s degree if they wish. You can learn more here.

Albuquerque Fire Academy

This academy is an impressive facility with a lot to offer. There are training programs available here for students and firefighters at different levels in their career.

Cadets can come here to take part in a dedicated training course that prepares them for the exams for Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2.

The term “cadet” gives a good indication of the intensity and style of this 20-week course. Another benefit of this department is the Paramedic School. There are few like it in the US so Albuquerque firefighters should take advantage of it.

This 11-month course teaches essential medical skills for first responders. You can find out more about the facility and options here.

As I mentioned above, Spanish-speaking firefighters have some interesting options here. The first I want to highlight in the Learning Network provided by the Forest Service.

Here teams from across departments and also international teams can train with the best equipment in their first language. Past courses have occurred in the Santa Fe National Forest.

The main aim here is building knowledge about forest fires and wildland management.

Then there is Everett Fire Department and their emergency preparedness lessons. Here they provide an eight-week program about emergencies in the community to help their staff connect with people in their jurisdiction.

This has expanded to include Spanish language classes. This small change opens the course up to more people for a more inclusive experience. As a result, the community can benefit further.

Major Fire Departments in New Mexico

The following is a list of major fire departments in New Mexico.  While it isn’t comprehensive it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about how to become a firefighter in New Mexico.

How to Become an Albuquerque, NM Firefighter

  • 18 years old
  • driver’s license
  • CPAT test
  • EMT certificate
  • High school grad with 15 college credit hours
  • Men under 25 registered for selective service

We have to talk about Albuquerque when talking about New Mexico as this is the biggest city, and therefore, has a lot of potential dangers that firefighters will come up against.

Anyone working here needs to be prepared for the fact that this Class 1 rated department was actually the 30th busiest in the US in 2018.

Recruits need to commit to their studies to be able to handle the calls for fire suppression, medical emergencies and other major incidents. There is also a lot of ground to cover in this jurisdiction.

There are 189 square miles with the greater metropolitan area having an estimated population of around 909,900. That is why they need 22 fire stations, and the minimum requirements here are straightforward.  Find out more here.

How to Become a Laguna, NM Firefighter

  • 18 years old
  • Valid state driver’s license
  • High school education
  • Resident in the jurisdiction
  • Physically fit

Laguna is not a large department but it is a busy one. There are just 27 career firefighters here to cover their part of Cibola County. This is an area of interest because of the growth of the area and increased funding.

The stations have slowly seen more equipment and more chances to help residents. Each team member has their EMT certification, and this is essential because over 90% of calls here are medical. There are also plenty of calls about fires and vehicle accidents on the local Interstate.

Therefore, it is essential that crew members here also have training in vehicle extraction and hazardous materials. You can learn more about the department here.

Job Prospects for Firefighters in New Mexico

The employment rates in New Mexico are fair to average. There were 2,400 employed in the state as of 2018 with a ratio of 2.95 per 1000 jobs.

At the time, the annual mean wage for firefighters in New Mexica was $36,590.

This is interesting as it may highlight a large pay gap between different areas. In Albuquerque, they currently offer $56,851.07. Another perk here is their incentive program. This includes Bilingual Skill Pay of an extra $20.00 per month, Wildland Incentive Pay of $32.50 and even an Academic Reimbursement Plan.

Another pay gap issue is the difference between New Mexico and neighboring states. Texas crews got $52,520 in the same period, Arizona offered $45, 150 and Colorado crews got nearly double at $61,160.

If you’re interested in learning how to become a firefighter in New Mexico, there are opportunities for anyone that fits into the right age range with the right skillset and character.

The range of training options pay incentives and bilingual courses help too. Find a training academy that suits your needs and locations, brush up on your Spanish and get to know the roles in your local department.

If you put in the hard work, you should find that you have a long and fulfilling career in firefighting.