Firefighters from Mexico make SQF Complex an international incident

Wildland Fire Culture: We’re all in this together 

For the first time in the history of our two countries, five crews of firefighters from Mexico arrived for duty on September 23, 2020. After a welcoming ceremony by Sequoia National Forest officials, and two days of orientation training, five CONAFOR (National Forestry Commission of Mexico) crews were dispatched to fire lines on the SQF Complex here in Tulare County. In the four weeks these 100 firefighters have been here, they have worked just about everywhere that boots on the ground were needed.

Functioning much like their counterpart U.S. hot shot crews, these male and female hand crews were chosen by CONAFOR because of their dedication to duty, and extensive experience. Since their arrival, they have constructed containment line after being inserted in the backcountry on the Castle Fire, assisted in back burning, and have worked in mechanical clearing operations in strategic areas where burns might be needed to halt the progress of approaching fire. 

On Friday, October 16, 3R News met up with three of the crews from Mexico in the midst of brush clearing along steep cliffs four miles up the Mineral King Road. The Mexican liason for the CONAFOR crews was Juan Manuel Villa Mejia. An assistant director of fire management in Mexico’s Forestry Commission, Juan was proud to represent Mexico in this first-ever cooperative firefighting effort between Mexico and the U.S.

The mission in the U.S. Mejia said, was to share information, train in wilderness firefighting, and support U.S. firefighters in this most difficult fire season.  In recent years, Mexico has assisted firefighting efforts in both Chile and Canada so the timing was right to come to California. 

The work these firefighters do in Mexico is very similar to what they have been doing on their deployment here.  In Mexico, like here, fire management is all about fuels reduction. But ask any of these visitors from Mexico what kind of work they prefer and they will tell you: being on the line and fighting active fire.   

“In my opinion, the most important thing is that we can work together because wildland fire culture…  it is the the same all over the world,” Meija said.      

 

Firefighters from Mexico make
On Friday, October 16, firefighters from Mexico at morning assembly on the Mineral King Road. They were briefed on the day’s activities and work schedule by Juan Manuel Villa Mejia, assistant director of Fire Management for the Mexican Forestry Commission.  Photo and videography by Ethan Paggi

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11 thoughts on “Firefighters from Mexico make SQF Complex an international incident

  • October 20, 2020 at 4:36 pm
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    Good story. It needed to be told. Hopefully this is just the beginning of this kind of cross-national interagency work with our North American partners. Gracias y Salutaciones a los Bomberos Mexicanos!

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    • October 21, 2020 at 5:58 am
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      This is a wonderful and good story keep up the good work.

      Doris smith

      Reply
  • October 21, 2020 at 10:30 am
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    The still photo running with this story is wonderful. Great work. As good a photo as you’ll see anywhere!

    Reply
    • October 21, 2020 at 10:41 am
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      Thanks for the kudos on the photo. That’s the work of Ethan Paggi; he is a 3RNews Hotshot. We insert him into an incident and he does the work.

      Reply
  • October 21, 2020 at 11:58 am
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    The wildfire world is very small in a climate change context. Congratulations to all these firefighters from Mexico that proudly represent our country supporting our USA firefighters colleagues to protect forests and people.

    Reply
  • October 21, 2020 at 1:48 pm
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    Congratulations to the brave Mexican firefighters. Excellent representatives of their country. Hopefully this visit will be the beginning of a long term relationship of the two nations to protect the priceless nature in our continent.

    Reply
  • October 21, 2020 at 2:49 pm
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    A great story and having seen their work, i’m very impressed.

    We need more cooperation along these lines to assist each other’s country as climate change is the result of more wildfires. I’m proud that we were the very first community to have experienced the embrace of mutual cooperation in such a regard.

    p.s.
    Haven’t seen an F-35 overhead in quite a long time, imagine if we’d spent the money on an array of firefighting planes and helos instead fighting the real enemy, not some imagined one in the middle east?

    Reply
  • October 23, 2020 at 6:31 am
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    Beyond grateful for their assistance. I know every Three Rivers resident who did not lose their home or family in these fires will attest that Mexico is truly sending their best people.

    Reply
  • October 23, 2020 at 7:25 am
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    Thank you for your service: those from Mexico. Know we send love and safety thoughts to you and gratitude to your families who support your efforts away from home. Same goes to local firefighters. All of you make a difference in our lives. Bless you all..

    Reply
  • October 23, 2020 at 7:31 am
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    Great interview!
    I’m happy and proud that John beat 60 Minutes to this story!

    Reply
  • October 23, 2020 at 8:18 am
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    These are great stories to hear. It puts the spotlight on those who are putting in the hard work to control and extinguish these fires.

    Reply

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