EL PASO — The City of Socorro is expected to receive more than 2,000 emergency calls in 2013 that require a firefighter or paramedic response. That is a concern for a city with only a volunteer fire department.
In April, 2012 Socorro City Council voted to take over fire protection and transition from a volunteer fire department to city run department. Jim Langborg was hired in October, 2012 as the new City of Socorro Fire Chief.
Langborg said towns with fewer than 10,000 people usually rely on volunteer fire departments, but Socorro has more than 30,000 residents.
"It's kind of difficult to ensure that you're going to have people to show up for calls, and enough people show up for calls. The City understood that and they wanted to put a system in place that would ensure firefighters are available 24/7," said Langborg.
The Socorro Volunteer Fire Department is funded by tax dollars from Emergency Services District #2. When the City of Socorro takes over, that will change, which is a concern for Chief Mario Murillo who has been leading the volunteer firefighters for the past 15 months.
"How are they going to be able to provide services? The funding, how are they going to get funding to run the department?" said Murillo.
Langborg said Socorro residents will not have to pay anything more than they already do.
"What we're trying to do is one, take current property taxes, and then in time the tax that's collected through sales tax and essentially make it a wash," said Langborg.
Langborg said he is working closely with the volunteer firefighters to help them become paid employees of the city fire department. Murillo said there is not much interest among the volunteers because many of them already have full time jobs, some as career firefighters, EMT's and paramedics.
The City of Socorro is looking to hire between 20-13 firefighters, and is scheduled to begin operating on October 1, 2013. Anyone interested can apply at Socorro City Hall, 124 Horizon Blvd.