New Chief has Fire Inside

March 7, 2023

Hail to the chief! San Juan County Fire & Rescue named Dave Vega as its new Fire Chief. The Pagosa Springs native beat out five other candidates in a nationwide search to fill the job. The former deputy chief will face lots of challenges, including rebuilding volunteer ranks. By Donna K. Hewett. This story is sponsored by Traegers Bar and SunRay Park and Casino

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Hail to the chief has a nice ring to it. Lean and apartment for the first time in his career, David Vega, San Juan County's new fire Chief brings an abundance of fire service passion and 25 years of saving lives. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by Traegers and Sunray Park and Casino. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. When John Mueller retired as fire chief last year, Vega went through the assessment process to find a new fire chief along with five other candidates from across the country. Vega, the former Deputy chief of San Juan County Fire and Rescue was thrilled to come out on top and is still getting a handle on his new position.

So this is three, I think this is three weeks on the job. I'm still trying to grip my arms around everything. This is a big organization spread out over a very large geographic area. A lot of moving parts, so still trying to get my arms wrapped around everything and find the battle speed.

Growing up in Pagoda Springs, Vega had one ambition in this world, to be a fireman. It's in his blood.

My dad was a firefighter. I had two uncles that were firefighters. My dad's office was actually in a fire station. I grew up in a fire station while other kids were playing with firetrucks in the sandbox, I was running through the fire station playing on real trucks.

Vega has been part of San Juan County Fire and Rescue for the past four years. He has inherited a department that protects a huge county and receives nearly 10,000 calls a year.

4,000 square miles is the county. So yeah, it's a really really big area that we cover. We've got everything pretty much from Navajo Dam all the way down to the 108 mile marker on 550 South. And then we go all the way to the reservation boundary west of Kirtland. So it's a big expansive area that we cover. It almost takes an hour to drive across the the entire county. So depending on where calls are we could have often extended response times getting there.

San Juan County Fire and Rescue depends heavily on volunteers, the number of which has dwindled over the years. When Vega joined the department in 2011 it had approximately 300 volunteers compared to half of that today.

We could not do what we do in our agency without dedicated volunteers. So we're always recruiting for people, good people that want to come and serve. And if you're interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter for San Juan County, please contact our office. We pay for all your training. We pay for all your gear and equipment. All we ask is a little bit of time for you and we provide everything else.

San Juan Fire and Rescue has a junior program for volunteers. Get your teen involved. Learn more about this story and others at Thank you for watching this edition of The Local News Network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.


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