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Four longtime members of Albuquerque Fire Rescue were pinned with their deputy chief badges as part of a promotion ceremony Monday in which about 70 other members were also promoted in rank.
The four new deputy chiefs include Kris Romero, as fire marshal; Kevin Ferando, leading communications; Santos Garcia, heading human resources and training; and Jimmy Melek, steering operations.
The ceremony was held at the Sid Cutter pavilion on the grounds of Balloon Fiesta Park.
The hiring process sparked some criticism. City Councilors grilled AFR Chief Gene Gallegos in January about temporarily waiving a requirement that deputy chiefs have a college degree, something Gallegos said he did with approval from the city’s Human Resources Department to expand the candidate pool beyond the 10 qualified candidates who had applied.
The process also prompted five complaints to the city’s Office of Inspector General, which ultimately closed the case after the city’s HR Department confirmed the waiver was “appropriate and proper.” Gallegos told the City Council earlier this month that all his deputy selections ultimately came from the original 10 qualified applicants.
• Romero, who has been serving as interim marshal, is a native of Albuquerque. He joined AFR in 2003 and spent more than 13 years in emergency operations. For the last five years, he was captain of the Technical Services Division, leading initiatives to upgrade phone, radio and computer technologies.
• Albuquerque native Ferando joined AFR in 2005. He has worked in fire suppression, emergency medical services and as a heavy rescue technician. His most recent assignment was as acting battalion chief, overseeing AFR’s Fleet and Capital Improvement Division.
• A native of Riverside, California, Garcia moved to New Mexico in 1993. He has been with AFR for 20 years, during which time he served as an EMS quality improvement officer. In 2018 he was promoted to battalion chief, managing AFR’s operations in the southeast area of the city. He most recently served as the department’s EMS battalion chief.
• Albuquerque native Melek joined AFR in 2004 and has worked in fire suppression, EMS services and as a heavy rescue technician. He also led the Home Engagement and Alternative Response Team, which focused on people who frequently used emergency services, and issues related to drug abuse harm reduction and fall prevention.
Jessica Dyer contributed to this report.