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(Courtesy Photo)

(Courtesy Photo)

The future looks conflagrant for Kevin Hope, the new fire marshal and director of Fire Services for Eddy County, and his enthusiasm and passion for not only the wellbeing of the county’s firefighters but also the safety of county residents won’t extinguish anytime soon.

Rick Rudometkin, county manager, conducted a swearing-in ceremony at Tuesday’s Eddy County Commission meeting, where Hope solemnly swore to “support and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the State of New Mexico” and “protect the lives and property of the citizens and visitors of Eddy County with compassion, courage and integrity.”

Hope plans to spark new ideas in his new position.

“I still need to get a grasp on how things operate around here,” said Hope. “But I’m excited to get started; I have a lot of ideas. We’ll just take it a little slowly, but I hope to continue to improve the emergency services in the county.”

Hope began his career in September 2004 as a firefighter with the Artesia Fire Department, where he progressed to captain and then division chief of operations and EMS.

According to Hope, the fire industry is ever-changing due to technological advances and changes to safety regulations since he’s been involved.

“The training in general for fire services has increased and developed significantly,” said Hope. “A lot of things like the approach to training and safety equipment have changed tremendously.”

Firefighters are notoriously known to show family-like support to their fellow emergency responders. This is definitely the case for Hope.

“There’s nothing that quite compares to a crisis or an emergency and working with people who are skilled, calm and able to handle that,” said Hope. “It is very much like working with a family… a dysfunctional family. It’s something that everybody has to say goodbye to at one point, either with retirement or moving on to another job.

“I wasn’t quite ready to, but you just have to make the best decision and hopefully I did and I’ll keep moving forward.”

Hope says the work of a firefighter should never be done to receive validation.

“If you get into this business for awards or accolades, you’re in the wrong spot. People who try this because it sounds cool and exciting and they want recognition – they don’t last. It’s not for everyone,” said Hope. “The satisfaction of what you do is plenty.”

Artesia Fire Chief J.D. Hummingbird, whom Hope worked closely with during his time at the AFD, listed numerous accomplishments Hope achieved in Artesia.

Hope was the driving force behind the paramedic program and, according to Hummingbird, “We never had such a level of emergency medical care ever in Artesia before.”

Hope also spearheaded the training tower; led the way in acquiring the air ambulance service, Tri-State CareFlight; led the first ever fire academy in department history; assisted the fire department in being awarded an ISO rating of 2, which only five departments of more than 360 in the state have attained; personally responded to more than 8,000 calls; was solely responsible for ensuring five ambulances and two new engines were built to specific specifications; and implemented the latest communications equipment and protocols.

“In my 30-plus years in fire service, I have never seen anyone more dedicated to the profession. Without Kevin, the Artesia Fire Department would not look like it does today,” said Hummingbird. “We, Kevin, and all of the men and women at the AFD have built one of the premiere fire departments in the state.”

Hummingbird said he will miss seeing Hope around the Public Safety Comple, but is glad he was able to seize a new opportunity with the county.

“I was truly saddened to lose Kevin, but I was happy to see him accept a challenge and further his career. Sad because he is an outstanding leader for our department, but even more because I consider Kevin a very close friend,” said Hummingbird. “There are a couple of good things about it. One, he hasn’t left the area so my friend is still near, and two, the Eddy County Fire Service has found an outstanding chief and leader.

“I look forward to working closely with Kevin.”