BELEN — Even though he never thought he would ever be Belen fire chief, Nathan Godfrey was appointed to the position last week.

After Mayor Jerah Cordova selected Godfrey for the position, the Belen City Council unanimously approved the nomination. Godfrey, who has been the assistant chief for nearly 20 years, replaces Bret Ruff, who resigned last month after being unable to fulfill his contract due to not being able to transfer his EMS certification from Nevada.

Nathan Godfrey New Belen fire chief

Nathan Godfrey
New Belen fire chief

“It’s something I never really saw myself doing, but I did it for the guys so there’s a little bit of stability,” Godfrey said of his appointment to chief. “(I wanted to help after) Chief Ruff left and a new chief coming at the beginning of the year.”

Godfrey has been with the department for 26 years, and plans to retire at the end of the year. When a new mayor is elected and takes office in January, he or she will appoint several positions, including the fire chief.

The new chief appreciates the mayor and council’s confidence in him to lead the department until its time to say goodbye on Dec. 31.

“It means a lot to me,” Godfrey said of his time with the BFD. “I’ve always enjoyed helping the community and neighbors in their time of need. I’ve always enjoyed the clean, honest hard work.”

In the seven months he has left with the department, he plans to keep moving forward and picking up where Ruff left off, including finishing projects the former chief wasn’t able to finish.

Godfrey also has the task of preparing the department for an upcoming Insurance Services Office rating, which measures the effectiveness of municipal fire suppression efforts in communities, and helps insurance companies determine premiums for property owners in those communities.

Currently, the Belen Fire Department has an ISO rating of Class 4. The best a department can get is a one. The classification is a number from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents the best public protection, and Class 10 indicates less than the minimum recognized protection.

“The department will be OK,” Godfrey says of the upcoming inspection. “The worst cast is we stay at a 4, but it would be awesome to move up to a 3.”

Godfrey said the last time the Belen Fire Department received an updated ISO rating was about four years ago, before the new fire station was built.

During the meeting in which Godfrey was appointed, the council praised and thanked him for his dedication to the department.

“I’m very excited for Chief (Godfrey),” said Councilor Ronnie Torres. “I think it’s fantastic. I think you’re going to do a great job. I’m so proud of you, and I know the department is in very good hands.”

“Congratulations, chief,” said Councilor Frank Ortega. “Nathan, it takes someone special and we really appreciate you stepping up.”

Councilor Danny Bernal Jr. told Godfrey he was impressed by a recent visit he had with him and his firefighters.

“What I saw and heard from you and your staff is a complete contrast compared to what I heard,” Bernal said. “You’ve turned morale around — good job. Whenever Dec. 31 comes around, we will be sad to see you go.”

Cordova also expressed his appreciation to the new chief, saying he’s been a loyal and dedicated employee.

“Thank you so much for stepping up … you’ve been with us for a long time, and you’re going to have to carry me to the finish line,” Cordova said. “Thank you so much for what you’re doing for the department, and for me and the administration …”

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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.