The Rio Rancho Fire Department has grown from very humble beginnings to become one of the busiest and most proactive in the state. What began as a small, one engine volunteer department in the 1970s, RRFD is now home to 100 full-time, career firefighters operating out of six stations. RRFD is responsible for protecting the lives and property of the city’s nearly 90,000 residents and daily visitors and responds to close to 12,000 calls every year.
The concept for the city of Rio Rancho was one of a bedroom community to the neighboring city of Albuquerque, and in its early years the city was nothing more than pockets of small subdivisions and a handful of commercial businesses. As the city began to grow, so did the need for fire protection, and in the early 1980s the decision was made to adopt the public safety model of government. This meant that firefighters and police officers were cross-trained to offset staffing deficiencies. During these lean years RRFD’s stations were manned with one firefighter, who was responsible for responding in either the ambulance or engine, depending on the nature of the call, and then relying on the police officers on scene to assist in fire attack or to drive them and the patient they were caring for to the hospital.
By the early 1990s the city’s continued growth had outpaced the public safety style of government, so the decision was made to formally split the police and fire departments, allowing RRFD to begin the process that is continuing to this day of moving our organization forward to meet the growing, diverse demands of the city. Rio Rancho is now the economic hub of the surrounding Sandoval County. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Rio Rancho took the title as the third largest city in the state in 2010, trailing only Albuquerque and Las Cruces. The city appears to be shaking off the recession of the past several years as new residents are flocking to the city and businesses claim to be lining up to stake their claim in one of the fastest growing cities in the Southwest.
RRFD is organized into three battalions, with a minimum of 4 firefighters assigned to each station, including at least one paramedic, two firefighters and a Captain. Our department’s two ladder trucks are operated by highly-trained Engineers. RRFD’s members work 48-hour shifts. The department operates in a single-tier system, meaning it is not only responsible for responding to fires, but it is also the sole responder to medical emergencies and the prompt and transport of all patients to hospitals in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque. RRFD is also home to a growing Fire Investigations Division responsible for all building inspections and the city as well as arson investigation as well as the city’s Emergency Management Department.