New fire chief gets acquainted

Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Raul Muniz’s first day on the job on Monday was mostly spent doing what he figures he needs to do a lot of in the following months — getting to know the people of Portales.

Muniz is the new fire chief for the Portales Fire Department and was a captain at the Raton Fire Department. Muniz brings to the fire department more than 23 years of experience and replaces Jesse Mowrer, who retired on Oct. 1.

Monday was his first scheduled day on the job, but he arrived on Friday to begin familiarizing himself with the Portales Fire Department staff.

“There is so much to do and so many people to bet aquainted with,” Muniz said on Monday. “I came in over the weekend, meeting everyone from the three shifts. My impression is that they are a very knowledgeable group of firefighters. They are really eager to learn more and become even better at their jobs.”

Muniz has 23 years of service in the New York City Fire Department and worked at the Raton Fire Department for six months. Muniz, with a smile, said members from his new staff at the Portales Fire Department joked with him on Monday that he brought the cold weather from Raton with him.

Muniz said he has met with Portales City Manager Debi Lee and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega. Muniz said he had lunch with Ortega.

“He’s very helpful,” Muniz said. “He offered his assistance. We were talking about the future of Portales and the fire department.”

Muniz is coming from an 18-member staff at the Raton Fire Department to a 25-member crew at Portales. Muniz has met with the three battalion chiefs, Darwin Chenault, Mickey Hargrove and John Bridges.

“They pledged their support in trying to maintain a high level at the Portales Fire Department and enhance it,” Muniz said.
Chenault said he met with Muniz over the weekend.

Chenault, Hargrove and Bridges handled the interim fire chief responsibilities while city officials were conducting the hiring process.

“He’s very knowledgeable and seems to care about the feelings of the crew members in the department,” Chenault said. “We are all turning the reigns over to him. We are introducing him to the people he needs to know.”

Chenault said Muniz will get to meet people with Eastern New Mexico University, Roosevelt General Hospital, the Portales School District and city representatives.

Chenault said one of the items they will discuss in the following weeks is wildland fires.

“We haven’t got into his knowledge of wildland fires,” Chenault said. “We will be sitting down to discuss wildland fires.”

He attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Muniz 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.

Muniz will make an annual salary of $50,000, according to Shelley Johnson, administrative assistant for the city manager’s office.