BELEN — With more than 24 years of fire and emergency medical service experience, Bret Ruff has been sworn in as the new Belen fire chief.

Ruff, who is currently the fire chief for Pro-Tec Fire Services Ltd. at the Belen Airport Fire and Rescue station, was nominated for the position on Monday night by Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova, and was unanimously approved city council.

Bret Ruff

“I’m excited to have Chief Ruff running our fire department,” Cordova said. “From his years with the Air Force, and more recently with our airport fire service, the knows fire, EMS and emergency management well, bringing his experience and professionalism. He’ll be a great leader for public safety.”

Ruff replaces former chief Manny Garcia, who retired at the end of December.

Ruff’s career in the fire service began during his time in the U.S. Air Force, where he retired after 26 years of service. He served 10 years of active duty and 16 years in the Reserves.

“I’ve been all over the world and worked in all types of fire departments, not just in the military,” Ruff said. “I’ve worked for an industrial fire department, doing a lot of hazardous material type of work. I’ve worked for volunteer departments, rural and metro.”

Pro-Tec is a contract company working for the U.S. Air Force, that has been actively training at the Belen Alexander Airport for a couple of years.

Having grown up in Albuquerque, Ruff graduated from Eldorado High School and went straight into the military. His wife, Deanna, grew up in Albuquerque, and he has three children, two who are grown and live in Phoenix, and a 9-year-old daughter.

Ruff said he decided to apply for the fire chief position because he likes the Belen community, and enjoys working with the city council and the local fire department.

“I try to integrate into the community — we’re a team member with the community,” Ruff said. “I want to learn more and become more involved with the community. I’ve always wanted to set my roots into a smaller community.”

While he’s been part of larger departments, he said he’d rather be able to make an impact rather than just be a number.

“I’ve very community-involved and there are a number of things the fire department can do,” he said. “I think the fire department is the hub of the community.”

Ruff believes the Belen Fire Department can do a lot in the city, especially with the new fire station. For more than a year, Ruff and Pro-Tec have run calls with local firefighters, and some Belen firefighters currently work with Ruff on a part-time basis.

“We’re all integrated together — just one big, happy family.”

Ruff said he will most likely take the helm at the Belen Fire Department on March 11.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.