Talon News - Good Local News



November 10, 2017

Dorothy Nobis

Bloomfield Fire Chief John Mohler peers into a window of the old Department of Transportation Building on Second Street. Mohler plans to renovate the building for administrative offices, training rooms, and a museum, which will celebrate the history of the City of Bloomfield and the fire department.

John A. Mohler grew up in a family of firefighters.

His dad, John N. Mohler, and his grandfather Dave Mohler were Bloomfield Fire Department volunteer firefighters for many years. With the fire department being part of his extended family, Mohler always wanted to be a volunteer for the department.

Mohler joined the fire department as a volunteer firefighter at 16 – the minimum age for volunteers. He continued volunteering until 2002, when the fire department was allowed to hire two full time firefighters.

"I'd never really thought about being a paid firefighter," Mohler said with a shake of his head. "I'd been an auto mechanic and an oil field mechanic, in addition to being a cook as a teenager at the old Triangle Café."

That was more than 22 years ago, and Mohler was proud to carry on the family tradition of firefighting. He is also proud of the history of the Bloomfield Fire Department and of the volunteers like his father and grandfather, who helped make the department one of the best in New Mexico.

When George Duncan decided to retire in 2016, Mohler was the obvious successor. By then, Mohler had obtained his associate's and bachelor's degrees and was eager to take his knowledge, his experience and his visions for the department into the chief's office.

His passion for the history of the fire department and the City of Bloomfield remains strong and he gave much thought to a city museum. That passion and the dream of a museum took a leap at the regular meeting of the Bloomfield City Council on October 23. Mohler asked for council approval to clean up and renovate the old New Mexico Department of Transportation building on Second Street and, using state Fire Fund monies, make it into an administration building for the Bloomfield Fire Department. The renovated building would include training facilities and - in the not-too-distant future - a museum. The museum would highlight the storied history of the fire department, with old photographs and equipment. In addition, the history of the City of Bloomfield will also be celebrated.

Future projects at the new facility will include a children's play area, a picnic area, and a maintenance shop, Mohler said.

"I'm excited and very happy that we'll get to do something positive and fun for the community," he said. "I've spent the day (Tuesday, October 24) researching grants to help us with supplies and material to begin the clean-up of the building."

A community clean-up day has been scheduled for Nov. 10 and 11, Mohler added.

The building was originally built in 1954, Mohler said, and was home to the BFD until the early 1980s.

"I want to preserve the history of the building and I want to use it as a recruitment and retention tool for our volunteers," he explained. "I also want to show our appreciation to all of our volunteers and to acknowledge all they've done."

When city council members questioned Mohler on how much money would have to come out of the general fund for the building, the fire chief didn't hesitate with his response.

"None," he said, adding the funding from the Fire Fund will cover the expenses and maintenance of the building and that funding will continue on an annual basis.

Mohler does hope to have volunteers – firefighters and others from the community – help with the clean-up and, in the future, to help raise money for a splash pad for kids.

The training room will also be available for community meetings and events, and Mohler also plans an educational area for children. "The sky's the limit for what we can do," he said. "Whatever the community wants and needs, we'll try to make it happen.

Ayme Vigil is the office manager for the fire department and is the official "unofficial" mother-in-charge. Vigil remembers being at the Bloomfield Fire Station as a child.

"It was one of the focal points of the community when I was young and growing up," she said. "When the (fire) alarm sounded, everyone in town knew there was an emergency."

At Christmas, the firefighters handed out bags of candy and treats to the kids in the community, Vigil added. "The fire department was all volunteers for many years. It was a generational department then – grandfathers, fathers and sons were all part of the department."

Vigil believes the new facility will encourage that sense of community.

"I truly believe it will have a huge impact on the community again, and I, for one, am so ready for that," she said. "And I hope we can teach the younger firefighters that the best thing an old firefighter can teach a young firefighter is how to be an old firefighter!"

Bloomfield City Councilman DeLaws Lindsay and his wife, Cheryl, are as excited about the energy that is going into the old building as John Mohler is.

"John and I had lunch and he shared his vision of the building with me," DeLaws said. "I'm happy to see things taking place on that property, which is a major highway through our community."

The renovation of the building will help the city's local economy as well. DeLaws said.

"Improving that piece of property will increase the value of all of the property in that area of town," he said. "I think John's idea for that building will encourage additional economic development, which represents life in Bloomfield."

"When vision is restored to a city, it brings hope and life back into a city," said Cheryl. "And that hope and life will be shared by everyone who lives in Bloomfield and to those who travel through it."


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