Richard Cummins retired from the Hobbs Fire Department in 1998 after a 21-year career doing everything from being the truck driver to working as an instructor.
He liked teaching so much that after he retired he enrolled in college to become a school teacher, meeting his wife, Shannon, in the process.
In 2008, Hobbs Fire Chief Manny Gomez called Cummins back to HFD to help teach the new recruits on how to save lives. On his first day, he looked through the teaching manuals and thought he had made a mistake.
“I called my wife and told her I didn’t think I could do this,” Cummins said. “She said, “the Lord has opened a door and you have to walk through.’”
Cummins walked through that door staying five years at HFD, then became the Eunice Fire Chief for another four years before retiring again.
In his honor Cummins received the Carl Joe Stan-defer Meritorious Service Award Sunday at the New Mexico Fire and EMS Expo Awards Banquet in Socorro. The award recognizes his 30 years of dedicated service. The ceremony was a culmination of a week’s worth of training and continuing education for any and all firefighters, officers and EMS personnel at the New Mexico Firefighters Training Academy.
Carl Joe Standefer, a Eunice native, was a longtime New Mexico fire marshal. Last year his son, John, also a Eunice native, retired as the New Mexico State Fire Marshal and was the first recipient of the Meritorious service award.
“That’s probably the best award I will get in my career,” said Cummins, who still helps the local fire departments with training and works as a state adjunct in fire training. “I love teaching. I have had a lot of different positions with the fire department, but I have always come back to teaching. I guess it started when I was a new fireman and my captain was a brilliant man who studied all the time. I just got a habit of studying and before long some guys would come to work and ask me to start some training classes.”
Cummins wasn’t the only Hobbs fire official to receive an award. Gomez was named Fire Chief of the Year and HFD Fire Investigator Andrew Gonzales was named Fire Investigator of the Year. The awards are state awards for the past year. Nominations were given to the NM Fire and EMS Expo Committee (which is made up of representatives from five state fire and EMS associated organizations).
Gomez has 22 years of firefighting service. He was the HFD chief for 12 years before retiring in 2013. He returned as chief in 2016 and was recently promoted to interim city manager for Hobbs.
While the Chief of the Year award has his name on it, Gomez says he shares the honor with everyone he’s worked with at the Hobbs Fire Department.
“It is very gratifying to receive this award and and honor to receive this. I was totally surprised that I got it,” said Gomez. “To think that there are over 300 fire departments in the state that either have a fire chief or a fire marshal … to be chosen out of that group of well-deserved people … I am blessed.”
Gonzales began his HFD career in 1998 and served in several positions before becoming Fire Prevention Captain in 2014. He works with the City Fire Marshal office on investigating all fire incidents and any building inspections in the city. Gonzales said just to be nominated for this state award was a huge honor.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Gonzales said. “I know that there are so many fire investigators throughout the state, so for the state to recognize me it’s a big capstone for me and my career.”
According to his nomination form, Gonzales’ “ability to comprehend and understand fire development and building construction are major assets that he has used during his time as a fire investigator.”
“I’m still in shock,” Gonzales said. “I know what the award means and I am humbled and appreciative of it, I’m still in shock over it. You go through your career and do your job not expecting any kind of recognition. We just know we want to make a difference and help others and help our community. The fact that I got nominated for a state-wide award is so surreal. I am still in shock about it.”
Gomez said a fourth person who has Hobbs ties won an award. Donnie Roberts serves as the EMS 3 Region director in Clovis and what the Governor’s Award for EMS. Roberts retired from HFD in 2998 as a fire captain and EMS coordinator.