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Sunland Park Fire Department supporting Border Patrol rescues

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Immigration along the southern border surged to record levels in the 2022 fiscal year. The Border Patrol encountered more than 2.3 million immigrants, but another record went largely unnoticed. Agents performed more than 22,000 searches and rescues, nearly double 2021 levels and more than four times the number in 2020.

As immigrants try to cross the southern border they encounter vast desert, steep rocky terrain and the Rio Grande River. It’s a dangerous journey across treacherous terrain.

Border Patrol agents often need assistance with the rescues. In Sunland Park, New Mexico, they call the local 22-member fire department, putting a strain on firefighters as they answer calls both in town and on the border.

“It’s our duty. We swear an oath to help anybody, no matter your nationality, no matter whether you pay taxes or not, we’re going to be there to help you,” Sunland Park Fire Chief Daniel Medrano said. 

Firefighters respond in a Ford F550 brush truck or a Polaris Ranger. Regular vehicles can’t handle the terrain.

Many of the migrants injure themselves when they climb over the border fence and jump off. That fall can be up to 30 feet, and easily two to three times the migrants’ height.

“We see a lot of open fractures, meaning that the bone actually will break out of the skin. You can lose a lot of blood that way,” Medrano explained. “We see them bilaterally where both legs will be broken at the same time. A lot of ankle fractures, your long bone, your femur fracture.” 

Migrants also suffer heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The Border Patrol discovers bodies of deceased migrants and the department will assist in the recovery. 

“It’s taxing on the human body and they’re not prepared. Unfortunately, a lot of these migrants succumb. They get lost and unfortunately they perish due to that,” Medrano said, adding it’s also taxing on his fire fighters. 

Last year, 12% of the department’s calls were migrant rescues. The cost has fallen solely on Medrano’s budget, including maintenance costs, outfitting his trucks with new winches and gurneys for patients and the gas the rescue vehicles consume at 7 miles per gallon. Medrano said he would like financial help with those maintenance costs and possible financial assistance for personnel costs; something he admitted would be more difficult to do.

“I don’t begin to fathom what it takes to be in Congress and make those kind of decisions,” Medrano said. “We will discuss that with anybody, anybody from the federal government that would want to sit down to talk to me.”

This story is part of a series of original Straight Arrow News reports from the border.

Vast desert, steep rocky terrain and the Rio Grande River. The southern border is treacherous, and crossing is dangerous. In the last year the Border Patrol performed more than 20,000 search and rescues.

It’s a job so big, they often need assistance. And in Sunland Park, New Mexico the federal agency calls the local 22 member fire department, putting a strain on firefighters as they answer calls in town, and on the border. 

Medrano says: It’s our duty. We swear an oath to help anybody, no matter your nationality, no matter whether you pay taxes or not, we’re going to be there to help you.

Firefighters respond in this Ford F550 brush truck, or a Polaris Ranger. Regular vehicles can’t handle the terrain. Many of the migrants injure themselves when they climb over the border fence and jump off – a fall that can be up to 30 feet.

Medrano: Two to three times their their height, we see a lot of open fractures, meaning that the bone actually will break out of the skin. You can lose a lot of blood that way. We see them bilaterally where both legs will be broken at the same time. A lot of ankle fractures, your long bone, your femur fracture.

Migrants also suffer heat related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke. 

Medrano: It’s taxing on the human body and they’re not prepared. Unfortunately, all of these migrants succumb.// They get lost and unfortunately they perish due to that. Border Patrol will discover these bodies after the fact and we go to assist in recovering a lot of these bodies. So mentally it is taxing.

Chief Medrano says last year migrant rescues totaled 12 percent of the department’s calls, and the cost has fallen solely on his budget. 

That includes maintenance costs, outfitting his trucks with new winches and gurneys for patients, and the gas these guzzling beasts consume at 7 miles per gallon. 

Ray: “what can be done to help a local fire station it through this immigration influx?”

Medrano says: I Don’t begin to fathom what it takes to be in Congress and make those kind of decisions. Those are global decisions. But supporting your local first responders, I mean, it’s it’s not just the fire departments, the Police Department. We we take up a lot of resources to respond to these calls. We will discuss that with anybody, anybody from the federal government that would want to sit down to talk to me.

Immigration along the southern border surged to record levels in the 2022 fiscal year. The Border Patrol encountered more than 2.3 million immigrants, but another record went largely unnoticed. Agents performed more than 22,000 searches and rescues, nearly double 2021 levels and more than four times the number in 2020.

As immigrants try to cross the southern border they encounter vast desert, steep rocky terrain and the Rio Grande River. It’s a dangerous journey across treacherous terrain.

Border Patrol agents often need assistance with the rescues. In Sunland Park, New Mexico, they call the local 22-member fire department, putting a strain on firefighters as they answer calls both in town and on the border.

“It’s our duty. We swear an oath to help anybody, no matter your nationality, no matter whether you pay taxes or not, we’re going to be there to help you,” Sunland Park Fire Chief Daniel Medrano said. 

Firefighters respond in a Ford F550 brush truck or a Polaris Ranger. Regular vehicles can’t handle the terrain.

Many of the migrants injure themselves when they climb over the border fence and jump off. That fall can be up to 30 feet, and easily two to three times the migrants’ height.

“We see a lot of open fractures, meaning that the bone actually will break out of the skin. You can lose a lot of blood that way,” Medrano explained. “We see them bilaterally where both legs will be broken at the same time. A lot of ankle fractures, your long bone, your femur fracture.” 

Migrants also suffer heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The Border Patrol discovers bodies of deceased migrants and the department will assist in the recovery. 

“It’s taxing on the human body and they’re not prepared. Unfortunately, a lot of these migrants succumb. They get lost and unfortunately they perish due to that,” Medrano said, adding it’s also taxing on his fire fighters. 

Last year, 12% of the department’s calls were migrant rescues. The cost has fallen solely on Medrano’s budget, including maintenance costs, outfitting his trucks with new winches and gurneys for patients and the gas the rescue vehicles consume at 7 miles per gallon. Medrano said he would like financial help with those maintenance costs and possible financial assistance for personnel costs; something he admitted would be more difficult to do.

“I don’t begin to fathom what it takes to be in Congress and make those kind of decisions,” Medrano said. “We will discuss that with anybody, anybody from the federal government that would want to sit down to talk to me.”

This story is part of a series of original Straight Arrow News reports from the border.

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