Fire academy looks to tackle New Mexico firefighter shortage

SOCORRO, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a growing problem across the country and even here locally: A lack of firefighters especially at volunteer fire departments. But a local fire fighter training academy is looking to solve that issue by attracting fire fighters to its annual Fire and EMS Expo.

Right now, across the state, more women suiting up. Susan Kolp hopes to be one of them soon as she takes on the training for the first time.

“This is so new to me that it’s kind of changing my goals. I’m kind of rethinking them,” said Kolp.

Kolp is looking to make the transition from EMS to volunteer fire fighter at Fairacres Volunteer Fire Department.

She’s one of 56 women taking courses at the EMS and Fire Expo this week and possibly one of the oldest.

“I’m 50 but I’m a fit 50. There are departments that would still take me,” said Kolp.

Last week, Kolp is participated in dozens of hands-on activities at the Fire Fighters Training Academy in Socorro. She’s training alongside 300 others who come from fire departments big and small from across the state.

They’re learning about how fires spread, pulling people from trapped cars, controlling tanker fires and even repelling.

State Fire Marshal John Standefer says it’s the fifth year for the Expo and that each year they’re seeing an increase in attendance.

He hopes that’s a good sign when it comes to solving the fire fighter shortage in many counties, including Sandoval County. So they’re looking for more first-timers like Kolp.

“We get them in gear. They have fun and decide maybe this is for me and they go on and make excellent fire fighters and serve their community,” said Standefer.

The Expo isn’t just for first timers. There are fire chiefs and captains who also attend to brush up on rescue techniques.

For more information on the Fire and EMS Expo, click here. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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