The loss of the Malaga Fire Department will put an extra burden on the Village of Loving Volunteer Fire Department and the county's Otis Volunteer Fire Department. Malaga also had an ambulance staffed with emergency medical technicians that responded to highway and oilfield accident all the way to the New Mexico-Texas state line.
The city of Carlsbad emergency service will be the first responder.
Unclear during the walkout whether the county fire department chiefs walked away from their post or just in support of Malaga's volunteer fire department, Carlsbad Fire Department Chief Rick Lopez, who was at the meeting, said he was prepared to send additional city fire crews to emergency calls.
Asked for his opinion on Malaga's action and the walkout of the meeting, Lopez said "They apparently felt strongly about it. But I have a department to run and I don't want to get into the middle of this."
Williams said in addition to her support for Malaga Fire Department, the second reason she walked out was because of Arnwine's presence at the meeting.
Williams said she has had issues with Arnwine in the past and when she brought them to the county commission and county manager's attention, they were not addressed.
"I'm flat not going to listen to Joel Arnwine anymore," she said, adding, "He has created a hostile environment for the fire departments."
Williams said although her department, which has the largest coverage area of the 11 departments, will continue to provide fire protection to county residents, there may come a time when her department could follow Malaga's lead.
"We really don't want do that. It would leave so many people without fire coverage," she said.
Cottonwood Fire Chief Kevin Hope, who was not at the meeting, said had he been there, he would have also walked out.
"This has turned political and it shouldn't," he said. "The fire chiefs are angry. We have attempted every avenue of communication that we felt would help. Were have had zero response, none. From the commission's perspective, they won't be pushed into something because of a bunch of aggravated people. It would show weakness. Weakness doesn't matter. You are elected to what is right."
He continued: "Quite Frankly, elected officials should be there to do what is best for Eddy County, not to please one individual. I have been in management for 25 years and have had to choke down my own words many times. You take what is around you, what is happening and do the best you can do. When you try to protect a position or person, that's wrong. You should protect the integrity of the position."
He added that when it comes to the point where fire chiefs walk out of a fire board meeting, it should tell the County Commission there is a serious problem in the fire administration.