Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Public Safety

Jon R. Tibbetts

Jon R. Tibbetts

Sandoval County Firefighters

“The group photo was taken May 17, 2012—the day the county commission recognized individual firefighters for outstanding performance over the past year. Chief Tibbetts [pictured front row, second from left] always made a point of making sure his personnel was recognized for their hard work and dedication to the department. He especially wanted to recognize the many volunteer firefighters the county relies on. He very often said the department couldn’t operate without them,”

—Sidney Hill, Sandoval County Public Information Officer. Photo credit: Sidney Hill

Sandoval County Fire Chief dies in car accident

Signpost staff

Sandoval County Fire Chief Jon R. Tibbetts was killed in a car accident at approximately 8:15 a.m. on Monday, July 23. Chief Tibbetts, 59, was on duty, driving his county-issued fire unit at the time of the accident. According to New Mexico State Police, Chief Tibbetts was traveling northbound on I-25, three miles south of Bernalillo, when he collided with another  northbound vehicle that had struck the concrete median barrier and rebounded into traffic. Tibbetts’ vehicle flipped, flew over the median and landed in a southbound lane. He was wearing a seat belt and was not ejected, according to Sandoval County spokesman Sidney Hill. Tibbetts died at the scene.

State Police arrived to find debris scattered lanes on both sides of the freeway which was subsequently closed in both directions for several hours.

In a front page article the next day, the Albuquerque Journal reported that a Sandoval County Fire Department rescue unit was the first to respond to the scene and later transported the chief’s body to the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque. The driver of a 2004 Cadillac, twenty-two-year-old Armando Saenz, of Albuquerque, was taken to Presbyterian Hospital in downtown Albuquerque with minor injuries. There was no indication alcohol was involved, State Police spokesman Lt. Robert McDonald said.

The Journal article contained quotes from several county officials.

 “What a loss and a tragedy,” said Sandoval County Commissioner Don Leonard. Former commissioner Daymon Ely said Tibbetts “basically built the emergency system from scratch in Sandoval County.” “It’s devastating to his family and the county,” Commissioner Orlando Lucero said.

The county hired Tibbetts in September 2004 as the first chief of the county’s newly created fire and emergency medical services system. Previously, he was operations director for Albuquerque Ambulance for 18 years. He began his career as a paramedic in San Juan County.

He was considered to be the driving force behind the expanding department and had a lot of friends. By Wednesday afternoon, four hundred people had joined the “Remembering Fire Chief Jon Tibbetts” Face book page group started by Deputy Fire Chief James Maxon in his honor.

Tibbetts was married with two grown children. He loved his work and was considered by his colleagues to be a great leader and  consummate professional. His outside interests included fiddle playing and mountain bike riding.

A public memorial service was held on July 27 at the Santa Ana Star Center where there was a formal military-like procession. Chief Tibbetts was laid to rest in the Public Servants Garden at Vista Verde Memorial Park. This section is reserved specifically for firefighters and law enforcement officers.

SC names Interim Fire Chief

—Sidney Hill

James H. Maxon has been named Interim Fire Chief for Sandoval County. County Manager Philip Rios named Maxon to the post on July 25, two days after longtime Sandoval County Fire Chief Jon Tibbetts died in a tragic car accident.

Maxon will head the department until county officials can conduct a search for a permanent fire chief. “We will take time to advertise the position, and we also will talk with members of the department’s current command staff,” Rios said. “We don’t want to rush into making a decision, particularly given the circumstances under which the position came open.”

Rios also said he’s confident that Maxon is the right person to lead the department at this critical time. “Looking at his qualifications, experience, his demeanor—and his relationship with the department’s staff—I have no doubts about James Maxon’s ability to continue moving the department in the positive direction that Chief Tibbetts had established,” Rios said.

Maxon has more than 20 years of fire service experience. He joined the Sandoval County Fire Department in January 2006, assuming the role of deputy chief and county fire marshal. Prior to that, Maxon was a senior inspector, investigator, and instructor with the New Mexico State Fire Marshal’s Office.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue fulfilling the vision that Chief Tibbetts had for this department,” Maxon said.

Fire Department needs volunteers

—Captain John Wolf

Sandoval County Fire Department, Placitas District 4, is now accepting applications for volunteers for a fall recruit class. Deadline for applications is September 14. This is an entry-level course that prepares volunteers with the basic training needed to participate safely, effectively, and helpfully on emergency scenes. The course runs for approximately forty hours and includes training in CPR, fire-ground safety, hazardous materials awareness, the incident command structure, radio operations, equipment familiarization, and tours of our district and the dispatch center. It is held at the Station 41 located on Hwy 165 mile marker four in Placitas on weeknights and weekends. The course concludes with scenario training with the other members of the district, at which time you will be issued some personal protective equipment, a radio, and will be able to start responding to calls.

The recruit class is open to all residents of Placitas and Bernalillo, and no previous experience is necessary. After successful completion of the recruit class, additional training opportunities allow members to gain certification as firefighters and emergency medical responders including paramedic. All training is paid for by the district after a member demonstrates their continued participation.

If you are interested in this opportunity to make a difference in your community, call Captain John Wolf at 771-3788 to get more information and sign up for a one-hour prospective-member session, so that you can make an informed decision about joining.

Top of Page

Ad Rates  Back Issues  Contact Us  Front Page  Up Front  Animal News   Around Town  Sandoval Arts   Business Classifieds  Calendar   Community Bits  Community Center  Eco-Beat  Featured Artist  The Gauntlet Health  Community Links  Night Sky  My Wife and Times  Public Safety  Real  People  Stereogram  Time Off  Youth