Portales chooses new fire chief

Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

The City of Portales will have a new fire chief starting Jan. 9 after city officials selected Raul Muniz from the Raton Fire Department to succeed retired chief Jesse Mowrer, according to a press relase from the City of Portales.

Muniz is currently serving the City of Raton as a fire captain with the Raton Fire Department. Muniz has been a shift commander with the Raton Fire Department for six months and has more than 23 years of fire-fighting experience.

“I’m ecstatic about the opportunity,” Muniz said. “I’m excited to have been chosen to lead the Portales fire department.”

Debi Lee, Portales city manager, said Muniz brings strong leadership to the fire department. Lee said a committee with two members from the Portales Emergency Medical Services and two fire chiefs helped select the finalists. Lee said there were five candidates interviewed and the committee members narrowed it down to two finalists, Muniz and Darwin Chenault of the Portales Fire Department. Committee members were conducting interviews last week.

Muniz has 23 years of service in the New York City Fire Department. He said he retired from that department in March of 2004. Muniz was in Portales last week for an assessment by the committee and met some of the Portales firefighters.

“He is stronger in fire (response experience), but does have training in EMS,” Lee said. “He brings leadership to a strong department. We wanted someone to look at new technology for a growing community. We wanted someone who could pursue funding through grants.”

The new fire chief says he was impressed with the caliber of the Portales department.

“They are extremely well-trained,” Muniz said. “I come from a fire department in New York City with a tradition of well trained firefighters. I think this group is ready to meet the challenges that come their way.”

Muniz said he liked moving to Raton because it is a beautiful scenery. He said New Mexico in general is a beautiful state. Muniz said he looks forward to living in Portales and traveling to Clovis. He said Portales is not as isolated as Raton and Raton doesn’t have another city the size of Clovis nearby.

Mowrer retired this fall after almost 21 years in different capacities ranging from firefighter, emergency management director, battalion chief to fire chief. Mowrer’s resignation was effective Oct. 1. Lee said the fire chief duties have been shared by Chenault, Mickey Hargrove and John Bridges of the Portales Fire Department during the interview process for a new chief.

Muniz said it is different territory whereas in Raton the firefighters have to deal with wildlife fires and forests while in Portales they have to deal with grass fires and ambulance response. He said a difference between the Raton Fire Department and Portales Fire Department is ambulance response. Lee said ambulance response is a vital component of the Portales fire station.

Muniz said the Raton Fire Department has approximately 18 members while the Portales Fire Department has 25 members.

He attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Muniz said he lived most of his life in New York City, but did live five years in Puerto Rico. Muniz, who has a Puerto-Rican culture background, said he can speak and read Spanish fluently. He said it’s an asset and can be beneficial to a community with Spanish-speaking residents.