Mexican Firefighters Lending a Hand to Big Bend Region, Nation During Natural Disasters

Mexican Firefighters Lending a Hand to Big Bend Region, Nation During Natural Disasters

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK - An elite team of firefighters were at Big Bend National Park on Monday preparing to fight natural disasters in the U.S.

They are "Los Diablos" from Boquillas, San Vicente and Santa Elena, in Mexico.

"It's the difference between getting firefighters here on the ground within four or five hours versus 24 to 48, or even 36 hours," Fire Management Officer at Big Bend National Park, Ed Waldron, said.

With fire resources over seven hours away at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, when Big Bend experiences a natural disaster in the area, a team of close to 30 firefighters from Mexico is ready to step in and help anywhere they're needed.

"They actually helped out with Hurricane Katrina recovery, Hurricane Sandy recovery, they helped last fall when Guadalupe Mountains National Park hen they had the flooding there," Waldron said.

These men, hired as emergency firefighters, volunteer to help with natural disasters. Every year, they get a refresher course, which includes CPR and First Aid training and hazardous material awareness.

So why Big Bend National Park? Well, forest fires are most difficult to fight in mountainous areas and rugged terrain. Making Big Bend the perfect place to train.

"A lot of the Diablos over in Mexico are ranchers and farmers so they already know that hard work, ranch ethic. So it lends itself well to working, firefighting," Waldron said.

Out of the 31 Diablos in training, 17 to 20 get sent out to render aid. The financial difference for risking their lives is life-changing.

"15 to 16 or so dollars per hour, and in Mexico, they would make about that much per day," Waldron said.

Big Bend officials say Los Diablos should be ready for assignment by the end of the week.