Graduates of CNM: Eric Masterson

Eric is the current Fire Chief for Sandoval County Fire & Rescue and is leading an innovative team that oversees 3,700 square miles of territory
April 01, 2021

Over the past several weeks Eric Masteron, the Fire Chief for Sandoval County Fire & Rescue (SCFR), has traveled all around the county personally administering COVID-19 vaccines. He and his team were in Jemez Springs, Cuba, Bernalillo and also went into over 100 homes to give the shot to people who were immobilized and couldn’t make it to a vaccination site themselves. On the road, people have asked why the fire chief is personally participating in the vaccine effort. Eric has a simple answer.

“For more than a year we’ve had this giant, global problem and now we have a solution with the vaccine so I want to pursue it at all costs,” Eric says. “In order for our community to get back to normal, we as a department have to jump in with both feet.”  

This all-in approach is what has defined Eric’s highly successful career from the beginning. He was already a part-time firefighter with Sandoval County when he enrolled in CNM’s Fire Science and Emergency Medical Services programs back in 2008. Thanks to what he calls high-quality, engaged training from the CNM faculty and staff, Eric says he quickly acquired the tools he needed to grow and move forward.

“The instructors at CNM are phenomenal people,” Eric says. “I never felt like a number to them, but instead felt like they were always willing to connect with me at a human level. Plus the curriculum was great and really well put together.” 

Success came quickly, even during his time at CNM when Eric was promoted to a full-time firefighter with the department. After graduation, he spent the next few years learning everything he could on the ground and also transferred his CNM credits to Eastern New Mexico University, where he finished his Bachelor’s in EMS Management . 

By 2012, Eric had been promoted to Lieutenant and then became Deputy Chief in 2013. Afterwards, he spent six years running every aspect of the department including all the staff (both the paid and volunteer firefighters), training, logistics, fire prevention, and operations. To keep advancing, he enrolled at Arizona State University for a Master's degree in Public Safety Leadership and started pursuing his Executive Fire Officer certification from the National Fire Academy. 

When the county Fire Chief position opened in 2019, Eric, who was just 34, won the position and became the youngest Fire Chief in SCFR history. At the helm, he was put in charge of 19 fire stations, 50 firefighters, 200 volunteers, and started running point for a county that regularly sees 7,000 emergency calls each year. 

As chief, Eric maintained responsive and thorough emergency services, but also tasked himself with moving the department forward. He wanted to address service gaps like the decline in volunteer firefighters and came up with a number of innovative solutions including several partnerships with local pueblos and new training academies that helped skill up more firefighters. As more search and rescue calls came in from both the Sandia and Jemez mountains, he grew the county’s ability to respond.

To get ahead and cut down on the number of calls the department receives, Eric has recently tasked SCFR with working on preventative services. Along with local health services, insurance companies, and community groups, they’ve been identifying and fixing problems throughout the community before those problems escalate into emergency service calls. 

During COVID-19, his team has responded to hundreds of calls and jumped at the chance to help administer the vaccine. They’ve partnered with both the New Mexico Department of Health as well as private pharmaceutical companies on their larger vaccine drive. 

Going forward, Eric plans to continually innovate and improve both COVID-19 and general emergency services for Sandoval County. He’s continually driven, he says, by a mantra he learned from his instructors back at CNM.

“During my time at CNM I was taught to always ask myself: ‘what is the problem, what is the solution, and what are the opportunities to implement that solution?’ Those are questions I still regularly ask myself when it comes to community needs and how to best serve those community needs,” he says. “I feel really thankful that CNM gave me the tools to be successful in my own career but to also successfully serve the community.”

To recognize his outstanding work, CNM gave Eric the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award. Click here to see his acceptance speech.