Los Alamos Fire Department Safety Division Chief Joseph Baca was congratulated at Tuesday’s County Council meeting by Chief Troy Hughes and Council on the occasion of his Oct. 1 retirement after 25 years to service to LAFD. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos County Councilor Sara Scott presents a proclamation declaring October Fire Prevention Month in Los Alamos County to LAFD Training Chief Joseph Baca. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.
Los Alamos Fire Department Safety Division Chief Joseph told Los Alamos County Councilors during their Tuesday evening meeting that historically LAFD has extended Fire Prevention Week to Fire Prevention Month in October to ensure the Department reaches the community’s preschools, elementary schools and even some neighboring communities with its mobile classroom and public education trailer.
“Unfortunately, last year our public education event was limited due to COVID. In May 2021 we came back with enthusiasm to try and restart our outreach program and we did for a short duration, but in late August and early September our program was once again affected by COVID,” Chief Baca said. “Last week, I made the difficult decision to cancel in-person Fire Prevention Month visits to the schools. This is something that the team and the kids really look forward to every year. The decision was based strictly on the health and safety of our kids as well as the safety of our staff.”
Baca said LAFD will, however, continue to reach out to the public through various means, via handouts, digital messages and social media.
“Fire Safety is very important to the Los Alamos Fire Department and to this community. We continue to seek alternative and innovative methods for getting fire safety messages to the community,” he said.
Chief Troy Hughes announced that Chief Baca is retiring Friday, Oct. 1 after being with LAFD for 25 years.
“We had a get-together last week to celebrate his retirement. One of the comments made by Marisha Ballew who put together the slide show for the event was that it was very easy to find photos of Joe because Joe was so involved for so many years teaching so many different classes in every school, in other communities, at the State Fair and other places,” Chief Hughes said.
Baca joined LAFD as a rookie in 1997 and has been a member of the public education team since 1998. He moved through the ranks as firefighter, driver/engineer, captain and training captain. He became a paramedic in 2003 and in addition to the public education team, has also served on the Technical Rescue and Haz-Mat teams. In 2018, Baca was promoted to LAFD Safety Division Chief and also assigned the public education program.
Baca and his wife Loretta live on the family ranch in Canjilon. They have three children; a son, Brian, who also works for LAFD, and two daughters, Marissa and Elyssa.
Los Alamos County Councilor Sara Scott read the following proclamation at Tuesday’s meeting declaring October Fire Prevention Month in Los Alamos:
WHEREAS: The Incorporated County of Los Alamos is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all those living in and visiting our community; and
WHEREAS: Fire is a serious public safety concern both locally and nationally; and
WHEREAS: Home fires killed more than 2,770 people in the United States in 2019 and fire departments responded to 339,500 home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association; and
WHEREAS: Smoke alarms sense smoke well before you can, alerting you to danger in which you may have as little as two minutes to escape safely, and working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half; and
WHEREAS: Residents who have planned and practiced a home fire escape plan are more prepared and will therefore be more likely to survive a fire; and
WHEREAS: Residents should make sure their smoke and CO2 alarms meet the needs of all their family members, including sensory or physical disabilities; and
WHEREAS: Los Alamos Fire Department (LAFD) is dedicated to reducing the occurrence of home fires and injuries through prevention and protection education;
NOW, THEREFORE, on behalf of the Council of the Incorporated County of Los Alamos, do hereby proclaim October 2021, as “Fire Prevention Month” throughout Los Alamos County, and I urge residents to “Learn the Sounds of Fire SafetyTM,” as it is important to know the difference between smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and to support the many public safety activities and efforts planned this month by the LAFD.