Torres has served with the department for the past 20 years, starting as a volunteer fire cadet while she was in high school to her most recent role as the second paid female lieutenant in the department’s history.

“That would be the ultimate goal — to encourage the next generation of females. Just because it was a male-dominated field back just a few decades ago, doesn’t mean that’s the industry we are in now,” Torres said. “No matter your size, height or your physical capabilities, if you work hard, you can do anything.”

Torres said she essentially grew up within the Los Lunas Fire Department, with both of her parents serving as volunteers. Her mother was the first female volunteer voted into the department.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t want anything to do with the service because they were never home because they were always giving to the community,” she said. “But, as I grew up, I started getting a little bit more involved and fell in love with it.”

Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photo
Raquel Torres has volunteered and worked for the Los Lunas Fire Department for the past 20 years.

After Torres graduated high school, she got a job as a secretary within the department. After one of the other female firefighters became pregnant, Torres moved into a fire-fighting role.

“I haven’t turned back since,” Torres said with a smile.

In her new captain position, Torres said her main focus will be outreach, training and setting an example for the next generation of firefighters. She added going into classrooms and teaching about fire safety is one aspect of the job she is looking forward to.

“When I first started my career, that was one thing I really took a huge passion. I still to this day, in my home office, I still have thank you cards from teachers,” Torres said. “There have even been a few teachers that have asked for me to go back, (but) it’s been hard to coordinate and schedule going out to their schools.”

Since her favorite part of the service is knowing that not everyday is going to be the same, she said the largest shift she will feel in her transition to captain is being behind the scenes rather than on the front lines.

“I love making calls. I love interacting with people and making that difference,” Torres said. “I’m excited because I like challenges. Now I’m going to be able to focus a little bit more on the stuff I couldn’t focus 110 percent on as a lieutenant, but I can give 110 percent as a captain,” she said.

Torres called the department home, adding it’s been extremely rewarding seeing it grow from an eight-person roster, with firefighters only making $15,000 per year, to a team of about 26. She looks forward to the continual growth she can help take part in within the coming years.

“Seeing the growth and development of the community and watching it grow is something I’m happy to say I’m part of the legacy within this department,” Torres said. “That’s one reason why I couldn’t leave here. On top of everything, this is home. My family is here. Friends are here. Born and raised Los Lunas, class of ’04.”

LLFD adds new positions to better ready for growth

The Los Lunas Fire Department promoted six firefighters into new positions during the Jan. 12 village council meeting in order to be ready for the growth projected in Los Lunas.

The six new fire engineers will be responsible for taking care of the apparatus at each fire station.

“We’re going to have the right people in the right places right now, and we will continue to grow accordingly to provide the services we have been providing,” said LLFD Chief John Gabaldon.

The additional captain position, which will assist with outreach and department growth, is also to help the department as a whole prepare for the increase in population throughout the village.

“That’s going to help us with training. It’s going to assist us with continuing to provide the services that we have been providing and also grow with those services so we can only get better as we go along,” Gabaldon said.

Currently, there is one vacancy in the department. Gabaldon said the department will continue to monitor call volumes and will grow the team accordingly.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.