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The Heroic Fire Brigade and the Things That Motivates Them to Continue

Felipe Torres - Foto: Ricardo Medrano

IMG_7831 - Foto: Ricardo Medrano

Patricia Juárez - Foto: Ricardo Medrano

Ricardo Hernández - Foto: Ricardo Medrano

By Karla Ortiz

Photo By Ricardo Medrano

Firefighters are the heroes of the real world, because their activities are about saving lives and because every morning they wake up with the enthusiasm to contribute to their community for yet one more day. It is for this reason that the San Miguel’s fire station has been referred to by some as the “Heroic Fire Brigade Station.”

Inside this building, there is a family made up of volunteers, social service workers, cadets, commanders, drivers, administrative, and operational staff. They are all trained for every type of rescue—aquatic, vertical (rope), vehicular, urban, and even cats caught in trees (yes, like on television). Every day, you can feel the spirit of service there.

Two engineers and an operator recently opened the doors of their service center to tell us the stories of some of their most memorable experiences.

Felipe Torres: “When you’re born with the need to give service, you put up with everything”

Felipe Torres is 26 years old and has eight years of experience in serving firefighters. Although he is a Civil Protection diver, he also works in firefighting. He is an expert when it comes to water disasters.

Among the many good and bad experiences he’s had so far in his service, one of the more memorable experiences happened about two years ago, when he was called at 2am to a fire in a home in the community of Puerto de Nieto, just behind the church. When he arrived, he noticed that the glass doors and windows were already broken and the air was coming in from all sides. When Torres approached the home, he felt as if he was in the very doors of hell; the fire was everywhere. It was swirling on the roof, and everything looked very blue, but with the help of his three companions, they managed to put out the fire.

And just as they have gone to fires, they have also assisted with vehicle accidents, such as an accident on their way to Querétaro three years ago: they had been told that a vehicle had hit a guard rail and that there was a person trapped inside, but no one was sure if the person was alive or dead. “We came as quickly as we could, but as soon as we saw the body we realized that the person was dead: part of the guardrail had pierced his chest, leaving him with his heart hanging outside his body,” that is an image that Torres says he will never be able to erase from his head.

His experience in water rescue has also had its share of traumatic moments. He remembers one Sunday a couple of years ago when, on the way to La Cieneguita, a family was having a party on the banks of the Río Laja. Two children were in the water until one of them screamed. The family suddenly only saw one child floating. “Immediately they called the rescue units, but unfortunately the diving equipment was on loan to the state of Guanajuato, so we decided to do the search and rescue without any oxygen tanks. We had to act quickly because the maximum time a body can be underwater is 10 minutes, and, unfortunately, we had already arrived very late.” They were able to extract the drowned child’s body out of the river, but he was already lifeless. Seeing the boy’s whole family break into tears and the mother trying to revive the child was heartbreaking for him.

“I’ve had a lot of experiences in service as a firefighter. You learn to deal with it. When you’re born with the need to give service, you put up with everything, especially when you go out and help the people who really need it,” he said.

Ricardo Hernández: “When you go into the service, you are going to rescue lives, not take them”

Ricardo “El Muerto” Hernández, 28, has been part of the fire department for 13 years. His nickname, “The Dead Man,” came from a story that is terrible for him to remember: On May 25, 2015, he suffered an accident while answering a service call. He was driving an emergency vehicle when suddenly a car blocked their way, causing them to crash into a guard rail. The accident resulted in him suffering a fractured foot, which landed him for eight days in the hospital and three and a half months in recovery. “Nevertheless, I appreciated being alive, and the incident fueled my desire to push forward and not give up, which helped me to walk again.

However, there are days when he thinks a lot about what would have happened if he had not dodged the vehicle that cut them off. The fire truck had a steel plate that could have easily killed the people in the vehicle. But with the support of his peers and family, he has been able to stop dwelling on it and move on. “When you go into the service, you are going to rescue lives, not take them,” he said.

Nevertheless, he still remembers his very first call to an accident and his first call to a fire. He still remembers an accident where the people he was taking to the hospital died on the way. He has survived out-of-control fires and accidents where cars have spilled all their gasoline. One incident he remembers vividly was a fire in November, 2017, in a subdivision. One house’s gas block had been turned on. When they arrived, they controlled the situation in a room completely on fire. He remembers someone shouting, “We found a person in the bathroom!” but the person was already in very bad condition and did not reach the hospital.

His 13 years of experience firefighting eventually taught him how to maintain his sanity and to go to accidents in total peace of mind. The most important thing is to get people safe and not to alter them any more than must be done.

“Sometimes we go to calls, and with a “thank-you” you come back happy. Some people invite you to eat, and others give you gifts. Sometimes there are really tough situations where you have to stop and think: ‘How do I tell a family that their father or mother didn’t survive?’ You have to know how to be tactful,” he said.

Patrica Juárez: “My adrenaline fuels my past normal limits”

Patricia Juárez, 32, has been working for 15 years as a firefighter. She shared some of her stories as well. She remembers that one Sunday 12 years ago, they reported to an accident on the road to Los Rodríguez. When they arrived, Juárez came across what might be the most horrible scene she could have imagined: football players, on their way home, had been travelling in a car on which one of the front tires blew. It threw them all as much as 15 meters outside of the vehicle. As they tried to move the boys, Juárez realized that one of them was missing an arm. She didn’t know what to do, and so she panicked. But with the help of her companions, she calmed down and they put the boy’s arm in a bag of water.

Another difficult experience happened when they reported to a fire in a house in San Antonio. “I remember the sound I heard upon her arrival—the sound of the 300-liter gas tank valve completely on fire. I feared an explosion that would have resulted in many damaged homes and my coworkers severely injured. Fortunately, my companions were able to calm the fire, saving the lives of the neighbors all over the street.”

Her most recent rescue experience took place during the recent explosion at Capilla de Piedra. She reported to the call moments after the explosion and spent all morning there, nonstop, until 2pm. All the adrenaline from wanting to get every survivor out helped her to keep up her energy, but when she stopped, it felt like all her energy vanished from her body, leaving her without a drop to continue. She was sent to rest along with her morning shift coworkers. This is a cycle she has gone through with many of her emergency calls: “My adrenaline fuels my past normal limits, but at the same time, I experience great physical wear and tear.”

How to support?

All the firemen we talked to agreed that it’s rewarding to have people recognize their work. Their commitment to the community is enormous, starting with volunteering. And for most, that sense of commitment never ends.

“It hasn’t been easy. Parents often don’t agree that we should serve. In my case, my mom always says, ‘We know you’re leaving, but we don’t know if you’re coming back,’” Patricia said.

And although there are times when she has not wanted to keep doing this, she then starts to think about how much she loves helping others. And seeing how their volunteers follow them motivates her and all of her coworkers to continue.

On August 22, celebrate these emergency workers with a parade featuring their vehicles and a recognition ceremony. And on August 17, attend their fundraising dance at Z Club from 7 pm onwards.


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