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“I believe in the Las Cruces Fire Department. We’re definitely one of the best departments in the nation,” said LCFD Battalion Chief Mike Daniels.
After retiring from military service in 2005, Daniels graduated from the fire academy and joined LCFD in 2006. He has been a paramedic for 10 years and became battalion chief in 2015.
Just before celebrating his 15th anniversary with the department this month, Daniels completed the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Executive Fire Officer (EFO) program. The training spans four years and is considered the flagship program of the National Fire Academy (NFA), according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
For Daniels, the course was an opportunity to develop his skills as a leader, researcher and writer. In addition to eight weeks of in-person training at NFA headquarters in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the course required writing and defending papers on officer development, mass sheltering and LCFD’s Mobile Integrated Health program (MIH). Daniels’ MIH presentation earned a perfect score and received the outstanding research award in community risk reduction.
His paper on mass sheltering, which also earned a perfect score, came from direct personal experience in Las Cruces. In 2019, Daniels was temporarily reassigned to the joint Doña Ana County/ City of Las Cruces Office of Emergency Management as area commander dealing with providing humanitarian aid to about 17,000 asylum seekers who were brought to Las Cruces by U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Daniels said EFO training has helped him to focus on strategic risk reduction/prevention and to help “people know how to protect themselves.” The training included an understanding of local demographics like poverty rates and drug use – and even the incidence and prevention of falls.
Daniels said he daily management skills also were challenged by the course, which focused on critical thinking and reevaluation, he said.
Instead of “This is how we’ve always done it,” Daniels said, EFO emphasizes, “You should question ‘why’ all the time.” And even when the department is operating efficiently, “that doesn’t mean we can’t get better,” he said, noting that innovations often lead to better public safety.
The training forced participants to think outside their traditional roles, Daniels said, and to “look beyond the scope of what you’ve done for the last decade.”
Through EFO, Daniels said he also developed a valuable network of peer support that stretches across the country and provides information about other fire departments’ “innovative ways to manage.”
LCFD responds to thousands of fire and medical emergency calls each year, and also has a hazardous-materials team and even a swift-water team, he said. LCFD leadership must manage day-to-day staffing (including dealing with issues like COVID-19) of all department staff, along with the incidents firefighters regularly respond to, staff certification, training, logistics and data research and analysis.
“It’s not our job to shy away from adversity,” Daniels said. “The bar for us always stays really high.”
After receiving his GED, Daniels earned a bachelor’s degree in individualized studies from New Mexico State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Western New Mexico University.