Fire chief arrested at scene of wildfire

Velarde Fire Chief
Velarde Volunteer Fire Department Chief Eddie Velarde, center, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of disorderly conduct during a small brush fire in Lyden. - Photo courtesy KOB-TV

The chief of the Velarde Volunteer Fire Department in northern New Mexico was arrested at the scene of a wildfire after his unusual behavior created confusion. Here is an excerpt from the Santa Fe New Mexican:

The chief of a Northern New Mexico volunteer fire department was arrested Tuesday after calling in multiple police and fire agencies to a several-acre brush fire in the community of Lyden, north of Española, and erroneously claiming people were trapped in buildings.

Eddie Velarde, 53, the chief of the Velarde Volunteer Fire Department, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and faces a potential $500 fine, said to Jake Arnold, a spokesman for Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella.

“He was calling for a mass evacuation (of surrounding residents) with all these agencies responding under the false belief that this was a much larger emergency,” Arnold said. “Numerous times at the scene, he was yelling about people being trapped when the fire was nowhere near any structure.”

Lt. Adam Archuleta, according to Arnold, eventually stepped in and told Velarde he was taking over the situation, and the small grass fire was put out within 10 minutes. The arrest, sheriff’s officials say, was the only way to stop Velarde from continuing to cause so much disorder at the scene of a minor fire.

The fire covered an estimated 2 to 3 acres, destroyed two abandoned structures and damaged the exterior of a third structure. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the blaze is unknown.

An attempt to reach Velarde on Tuesday night was unsuccessful, but he was released shortly after his booking and allowed to go home. It is unclear why he reported the fire to surrounding agencies in such an urgent manner. It is also unclear why Velarde believed people’s lives were in danger because of the blaze.


Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.