Eddy County volunteer firefighters may walk off job

Posted at: 08/26/2013 6:57 PM
By: Lauren Hansard, KOB Eyewitness News 4

One New Mexico county could be in serious trouble if a fire breaks out.  Right now 10 out of 11 volunteer fire chiefs in Eddy County are threatening to walk off the job. 

Robin Williams has been a volunteer for 30 years. 

"And I’m telling you I have lost sleep, hours and hours of sleep over this because none of us want to walk out," said Williams. 

But walking out is exactly what volunteer firefighters are planning on doing if the county puts emergency manager Joel Arnwine in charge of the fire departments.

Firefighters said they have no confidence in Arnwine.

If the chiefs resign, the fire protection to all of Eddy County could be in jeopardy.

“If all the departments walk out, its devastation to the county. There is no protection, no fire protection, no EMS protection for the public," said Atoka Volunteer Fire Chief Ronnie Houghtaling.

We tried reaching out to Arnwine, but he told us he did not want to comment.  He did tell the Carlsbad Current Argus he wants the County Commission to be able to set policies for fire and emergency services in Eddy County.

“Every single person in my department has agreed to walk out if they put this policy in effect," said Loco Hills Assistant Fire Chief Sonny Hope.

The details of the policy are not clear, but at least one County Commissioner said there is nothing to worry about.  County Commissioner Royce Pearson said he will vote against the proposal.

“To the guys that are losing their sleep over this whole thing, it’s all going to work out to everybody’s satisfaction. We have no desire to see anybody walking away from these volunteer departments," said Pearson.

The Eddy County Board will discuss the proposal at their Commissioner’s meeting on September 3.