1888 — Las Cruces College opens for its first school year
1908 — Fire at Klondike
“Klondikers around 6:20 pm noticed fire coming from John Smith’s room and their prompt actions saved the occupant serious loss. The bed clothes were burning when the fire was discovered. Smith left his room at about 4:40 pm and cannot account for the origin; it may have been spontaneous combustion, as there is no gas or electric wiring in the building.”
1909 — “Horse Sheds Destroyed in Halloween Conflagration”
“Two fire alarms within a half hour were sounded. The first blaze under the floor of one of the old shacks back in the boys’ dorm was extinguished. The second fire, at the north end section of the horse sheds, burned in twelve minutes.” No injuries reported.
1910 — Fire destroys Old Main
On the evening of September 12, 1910, a fire broke out in the basement of McFie Hall. Students discovered the fire while walking across campus to a meeting. They were able to save a few typewriters and some other pieces of equipment, but were unable to extinguish the flames. Less than three hours later, the fire had destroyed the structure and all of its remaining contents including the bell that used to summon the students to classes. The loss of the building and equipment is about $35,000. More than a century later, McFie Hall’s cornerstone still stands on the NMSU Horseshoe, next to the flagpole.
1921 — College fire department was established by volunteer staff
Willie N. Preciado was appointed as the first Fire Chief.
1921 — Fire escape built
“The board orders a fire escape to be built on north of girls’ dorm—not for Romeos, however.”
1926 — Commerce buildings saved
“The timely arrival of Mr. John Hobbs, a campus attendant, was all that saved the Commerce Buildings. Ashes had been placed in the trash box that kindled the fire. The fire spread rapidly and a southwest breeze added to the fire spread where “a good sized plot of grass adjacent to the building in question burned.”
1927 — “The State college Fire Department saves adjoining buildings”
“The Music Hall and equipment were lost with an estimated damage of $2,500 for the building and $3,000 for the contents. The loss besides the building included the radio broadcasting studio, four pianos, string instruments, sheet music, and considerable of Miss Dampiere’ personal effects and much music meet data.”
1931 — New fire equipment will be installed in November
“Additional fire equipment has been ordered for use on campus and in various buildings. The equipment consists of 25 two and a half gallon soda acid fire extinguishers, 1,400 feet of fire hose to replace old hoses in the buildings, and fire cart. There are also plans to place additional fire plugs on the campus and in the buildings.”
1934 — College Pump House Burned Thursday
“Women returning from the hiking class noticed “smoke and flames issuing from the pump house next to the swimming pool. The more energetic of the group fled to the registrar’s office with the news, while other rushed down to C.H. Strickland’s office. Within 10 minutes a crowd and Strickland, with several fire extinguishers, appeared and the fire was put out before any real damage was done. Water could not be used because the fire hose was in the building and was lost in the fire. The origin of the fire is not known.”
1944 — Raging Fire Destroys Fishpond with $1.50 Damage; Fish Cremated
“A raging fire swept the south fishpond late last night, completely destroying everything in its path. Damage was estimated at $1.50, late reports from the registrar’s office said last night. Cause of the fire is as yet undetermined, but Building and Grounds Department authorities said it probably caused by a cigarette being carelessly thrown in the water. ‘Construction of a new fishpond will be under way about twelve years from Thursday,’ C. Strickland said.”
1946 — Guards Patrol Housing Area
“As part of the fire prevention program two fireguards have been employed to patrol the vicinity in and about the barracks, the apartments, and the trailer area, according to a statement by Colonel Elliott B. Gose, housing director. The fireguards’ tour of duty has been organized so that a night fire or a possible cause of fire will be quickly detected, and it is their duty to arouse nearby residents, sound the alarm, and fight the fire until the fire department arrives.”
1947 — New Mexico A&M purchases new fire truck
“Personnel of the buildings and grounds department have been acting as firemen with the truck on at least four calls, but college students and faculty will soon organize a voluntary fire department. The college has also recently installed extra fire extinguishers in the trailer, apartment and barracks areas. Fire hoses, which are marked for that purpose only, have been given to the proctors of the various areas.”
1950 — Barracks destroyed at a Greek Residents
“Zeta Tau Alpha Lodge resident barracks was destroyed by fire on March 15. One couch, three valuable paintings, the sorority plaque, a number of card tables and chairs were destroyed. The living room appears to have received the most damage from the fire which burned extensively in the floor and ceiling.” No injuries were reported.
1958 — Las Cruces College name change
“On December 17, 1958, the Board of Regents changed the name of the college to New Mexico State University of Agriculture, Engineering and Science. The engineering, agriculture, and arts and sciences schools were upgraded to ‘colleges,’ and the first doctoral degree was issued in 1960. New Mexico State had made the transition from small state college to a major state university. The name of the college was legally changed to New Mexico State University by a state constitutional amendment in 1961.”
1958 — Change in ISO rating
“The State of New Mexico Department of Insurance mandated that the NMSU ‘fire department shall consist of well-organized volunteer members with at least ten volunteer firemen available at all times. Motor apparatus shall be required to be retained for fire department response within boundaries of campus only’ in order to reclassify our ISO rating to a Class 8.”
1960? — C.L. Seefeld appointed as Fire Chief
1961? — George R. Huff appointed as Fire Chief
1961 — Southern New Mexico Fireman’s Association hosted at NMSU in Jett Hall on May 7
1961 — 6th Annual Fire Marshal’s School held August 14-16 on the NMSU Campus
1963 — Faulty electric door opener caused fire scare
“Two fire trucks load with eight firemen answered a report of fire which was caused by a faulty electric door opener motor in the elevator in the Chemistry building which was quickly extinguished.”
1963 — Extinguisher Offered for 50 Cents
“University volunteer firemen are selling tickets for an emergency 2-1/2-lbs dry chemical fire extinguisher at the firemen’s barbeque August 27 at NMSU. Proceeds benefit the Annual New Mexico Fire Marshal’s School at NMSU. Tickets are 50 cents each and may be purchased from any member of the Volunteer Fire Department.”
1964 — First and only Honorary membership in the New Mexico State University Fire Department
Given to Leonardo Solis B., Jefe del Cuerpo de Bomberos, C. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico by NMSU FD Chief George R. Huff.
1964 — University Fire Department under the Physical Plant Department at NMSU
It was made up of majority volunteer staff members who were full-time employees and three student members.
1965 — New Fire Station at 1510 Wells Street was built for $35,000
“All telephones on campus and the surrounding area are linked to the fire station’s communication room. This moves the calls from the university operator to fire station. The red phone and its red light are added to the communication room for quick responses.”
1966 — Firefighters fight the fire at WWII temporary housing
On November 15, 1966, NMSU firefighting students battle a blaze at the World War II temporary housing. Photo provided by Robert Robbins who visited our “new” station on September 14, 2015. Thank you Robert!
1969 — Chief Clyde Pope was hired
During his tenure, Chief Pope realized the need for growth due to the campus population growth. He recognized the need for more firefighters but there was no budget for a dorm. Chief Pope converted his one bedroom apartment into two rooms. He lived in his living room and two additional students took over his old bedroom bringing the total number of student firefighters to six. The average pay for student firefighters was $1.25 per hour (but could not exceed 20 hours per week) and students lived in the fire house for free!
1970 — School conducted at NMSU for State Firefighters
“The 15th Annual Fire Marshal’s Fireman’s Training School’s main purpose was to add additional knowledge in fire technology and engineering. The August courses were designed to benefit Fire Marshals, Fire Chiefs and firemen and open to all persons who are involved in fire protection and prevention activities in New Mexico.”
1971 — Chief Clyde Pope retired in the fall of 1971
1971 — David James appointed as Fire Chief
1973 — Steam pipes blamed for fire that destroyed two art barracks
“Art barracks caught fire losing books and specialized art tools. Two students and one professor lose semesters of work. President Gerald W. Thomas donates the first $100 to fundraise for reimbursing losses. This campaign was started by ASNMSU Executive Vice President Fernando Macias.”
1974 — Wooden barracks gutted by fire
“On February 22, two of three wooden barracks which housed NMSU’s art department were gutted by fire. The structure was schedule for demolition in two months. Campus and city firemen fought flames which reached as high as 100 feet. Smoke billowing from the roof blanketed the campus and the shooting flames attracted many spectators. It was later determined that hot steam pipes caused the fire.”
1979 — New fire alarm systems installed in all the dorms and the Phi Kappa Tau lodges
1982 — Fire Chief David James retires
1985 — First reported car fire; “a battery under the hood apparently caught some paper on fire”
1988 — Fire Department receives a computer at the fire station
This computer has “one of the most sophisticating dispatching systems in the nation. The computer system allows a fire fighting team to evaluate a fire situation more quickly by eliminating steps in the current dispatching process.” August Martin is NMSU Fire Chief.
1988 — Residents were evacuated at Alumni Resident Center
Fire scare hits single dorms and the 900 to 1,000 residents were evacuated from their rooms at Alumni (Avenue Residence Center). An electrical failure resulted in some motors burning out at an Alumni electrical pump. The overload affected the south and southeastern side of campus.” Fire Chief Harry Butler is quoted.
1989 — Darrell Smith, the new Fire Chief, was hired
1992 — “Please return items, no question asked”
Vital fire equipment was stolen from the NMSU Fire Department. Two specialized breathing masks and a 12-foot air hose were taken. NMSU Fire Chief Darrell Smith said, “Not having this equipment jeopardizes the lives of the men and we can’t do our job as efficiently. That is potentially dangerous to everyone.”
1993 — Hydrochloric acid leak strikes Chemical Building
1993 — Gerald Thomas Hall fire
“Last December 20, a student was working in a genetic engineering research lab in Gerald Thomas Hall when a fire broke out. “From the onset of the fire until it was contained it took only 11 to 14 minutes, Gregory Phillips said. The lab was under his direction of the microbiology graduate student program in agronomy and horticulture. NMSU Fire Department was lauded for its record response time. Two adjacent labs suffered heat and smoke damage. Gerald Thomas Hall was damaged by smoke and the interior of the entire building had to be cleaned out.”
1994 — Fire in Foster Hall
“The cause of the fire in Foster Hall last Sunday is undetermined, although it is believed to have been started by a power supply shortage or a piece of biology research equipment. The fire was extinguished when a PVC water pipe was ruptured. Most damage resulted from smoke and soot. NMSU Fire Chief Darrell Smith it’s too soon to determine what caused the fire.” No injuries were reported.
1996 — Bomb explodes in Garcia Hall
“Five homemade explosives have been appearing in Garcia Hall. One custodial staff was injured. The explosion is under investigation.”
1996 — Kitchen remodel at the Fire Station
1996 — Student Firefighters help to monitor homecoming bonfire
1996 — One new student firefighter hired at the Fire Station; 35 people applied
2002 — Expansion of Fire Station by adding another truck bay and administrative offices
2004 — Fire Department received Rescue 301 through a Department of Home Land Security Grant
This specialized unit is used for transport of personnel to support heavy rescue, technical rescue and hazardous material responses.
2011 — New E301 received as first out unit which responds to all types
2012 — New UTVs (Ultra-terrain vehicles)
To support outdoor special events, two UTV’s were purchased.
2013 — In June, Johnny Carrillo was appointed Fire Chief
2014 — Hired two full-time day career firefighters
NMSU Fire Department has had a history of having paid administrative staff but not paid firefighters. In early January, we hired two firefighters (Eric Adair-NMSU FD Student Alum and Richard Largent). Eric left us later in the year and became a Albuquerque firefighter. Robert Boehms was hired in November to replace Eric.
2014 — First Deputy Chief hired in NMSU’s Fire Department history
Louis Huber was hired on January 16, 2014. Check out his bio under our Staff section on the website.
2014 — NMSU Fire Department has a new ISO rating of 3/3x as of April 8
The New Mexico State University Fire Department ranks in the top of the class. Following a recent Public Protection Classification survey from Insurance Services Office, NMSU received a rating of 3/3X, which is among the top five percent in the nation. According to data from 2008, only nine fire departments in the state of New Mexico received a score of three or better. Nationally, NMSU ranks in the top 750 of 14,000 departments.
All of the quotes, unless noted, were taken from the NMSU’s The Round Up from 1909 to present. If you want the reference for a specific quote, please email the Fire Department at FireServices@nmsu.edu with the year and quote.