The Moriarty Fire Department will receive $5.2 million in federal funding to go toward a new fire station, said Fire Chief Todd Hart, who said he’d been trying to get an updated station in Moriarty for the last four years that he’s been the Chief.

This money comes on the heels of the passing of Senate Bill 256, which enables local fire departments across New Mexico to access 100 percent of the available capital in the Fire Protection Fund, according to a press release from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office.

“It’s not cheap to build a new station,” said Hart, adding that this grant marks the first substantial influx of cash to the department in several years.

The Moriarty Fire Department was granted $1 million by the state in 2019 to build a new fire house, said Hart. But after several postponements due to the pandemic and its effect on lumber prices, Hart said he decided to “ask the feds for money to fund [the] building.”

The Moriarty fire station is currently located on Broadway, south of Old Route 66. Though the location of the new station is “still up in the air,” said Hart, he expressed his desire for it to be a showcase for the community, “something people can drive by and feel proud of,” he said.

Chief Hart said that, although he has seen a few negative comments online “from people who don’t think it’s a priority,” he said he has “heard nothing but positive feedback” about building a new fire station.

Additionally, said Hart, the $5.2 million would go a long way toward implementing an improved air circulation system at the new station.

Carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, are a big concern for firefighters, Hart said. Not only do the firefighters come into contact with carcinogens when they’re battling fires, as it’s a byproduct of combustion, they also spend much of their time inside the fire house.

This puts them at increased risk of coming into contact with ambient carcinogens, most notably from idling trucks in the bays, but also from off-gassing from contaminated post-fire gear, according to the National Institute of Health’s report titled Assessment of Ambient Exposures Firefighters Encounter while at the Fire Station.

Hart looks forward to eliminating transmission of potentially carcinogenic air “from the [decontamination] area to operations to the living quarters,” he said.

Hart expects the department to receive the funds by the end of fiscal year 2021, he said, which is at the end of September. Looking forward, he anticipates the completion of the project, and the grand opening of the new Moriarty Fire Department, in June, 2022.

Hart credits the grant of these new funds to recently elected Rep. Melanie Stansbury, and her attention to the communities of the East Mountains.

“Our representative did us very well,” he said. “I don’t know how she did it, but she did very well.”

Hart expressed his gratitude to Stansbury and his desire for more people like her to continue to advocate for East Mountain communities so departments like his “can keep serving the community.”