Saturday, January 05, 2008


Friday, April 27, 2007

The Creation Of Mexico-Task Force 1 (MX-TF1)
Provider: Joe Martinez, Ciudad Obregon Fire Department
WRITTEN BY : Joe Martinez, Instructor/Facilitator , DATE POSTED: 4/22/05

Joe Martinez

THE BEGINNING: In March of 2000 while visiting my fiancée and preparing for our wedding, I went to visit the main fire station. During my visit with the firefighters and Chief Juan De Acha, we were told of a horrific story about the death of two firefighters 6 months earlier. The two firefighters that gave their lives were Firefighter Ernesto Partida, age 28, married with a 1-week-old child Bryan and Firefighter Manuel Medrano, age 27. Even though their lives were lost, they will never be forgotten in the Ciudad Obregon FD.

The firefighters had died while battling a large commercial fire, during the battle their air tanks ran empty and unfortunately they did not have a functional low air alarm or a PAL (personal alarm locator). The two firefighters simply took off their masks, breathed in superheated gases and collapsed where they were found, less than ten feet from their fellow firefighters. Their bodies did not have any burns.

PALs are safety devices that I, as a firefighter take for granted, but thanks to organizations such as NFPA and Cal- OSHA this device, as well as certain laws make it safer for firefighters in the United States. When I had heard of this terrible accident, I thought of what I could do. My department (the Santa Maria Fire Department) had given me 6 PAL’s that were being phased out because of new technology and let me give them to the Ciudad Obregon Fire Department.

After that I was motivated to gather phased out fire equipment donated from local Fire Departments in my area to take to Ciudad Obregon. Even though this equipment is phased out in the United States, it will still work very well in Mexico.

People would probably ask, ‘why would a fire department give away fire equipment that is still good?’ With increasing technology and safety concerns in the United States Fire Service, we have a high level of protection thanks to organizations like Cal-Osha and NFPA. Even though the fire equipment that departments discard does not meet U.S. or Ca. standards, it will still supply a high level of protection for the firefighters of Mexico.

Once every year, (I would load my truck with all the donated fire equipment, I would look similar to the Beverly Hillbillies). My wife and I would combine the drive into a family visit with her family in Ciudad Obregon. Once we would arrive in Nogales, AZ, (the Arizona/Mexico border crossing) we would cross over to the Mexico side and talk to the Mexico Aduana (Customs), this is where the problems would begin.

First, let’s start with the word “donation”, apparently, the Mexican Government has created a mountain of paperwork that you need to complete before you can “give”, I repeat “GIVE” needed equipment that can make a firefighters job in Mexico “SAFER”.
I have tried to reach high levels in the Mexican Government with out any success. Even working with the local government in Ciudad Obregon, they have had no success to contact the higher levels of government.

If Presidente Fox of Mexico is reading this article, please give me a call so we can talk!

“ My one wish for the firefighters of Mexico is; when I cross the border with a truck load of donated equipment, President Vicente Fox of Mexico will call and tell the border guard to check that it is fire equipment and let me go through to Ciudad Obregon”.

Firefighter Training

(Rappeling is another useful skill for rescue)

In 2001 while visiting my wife’s family in Obregon, I discussed the opportunity to assist in formal training with the firefighters of Ciudad Obregon; I am currently a Rapid Intervention Crew Tactics Instructor. I was hoping that when I drove to Ciudad Obregon to visit my wife’s family, I could train with them for about 2 or 3 days of my visit. The fire chief at the time, Juan De Acha thought that this would be a great idea. He had put me in contact with John Adams who was a member of the Woodland Hills (CA) Rotary Club and a retired Battalion Chief from the Los Angeles City FD. The Ciudad Obregon Rotary Club is the Sister City Rotary Club of Woodland Hills. John Adams and I discussed the idea, he discussed it with club members and it was agreed to try a traveling firefighter program.

The plan was to bring structured training to the firefighters, starting from simple hose evolutions to firefighter safety & survival. We would teach to the standards and requirements equal to the California State Fire Marshal level of safety or above. It is not my intention to teach Ciudad Obregon my standards or another instructor’s standard.

The Woodland Hill Rotary Club would pay the travel expenses for two firefighters per year. This appeared to be good for the firefighters of Obregon and I would be an Assistant Instructor/ Facilitator.

Beginning in 2002 I started traveling to Ciudad Obregon with other firefighters sponsored by the Woodland Hills (CA) Rotary Club. We have been able to deliver quality training to the Firefighters of Ciudad Obregon. In the first year we combined the training with the servicing of their air filling station. The training we have delivered have been in the area of-

(Firefighters using a rope bar for exiting a fire in photo)

* Service/Repair breathing air compressor- 2002
* Rapid Intervention Crew Tactics
(Ca. State Fire Marshal Version) - 2002
* Firefighter safety & survival
(Ca. State Fire Marshal Version) - 2003
* Firefighter accountability- 2003
* Vehicle extrication
(Ca. State Fire Marshal Version) - 2003
* Search & rescue- 2003
* Low angle rope rescue
(Ca. State Fire Marshal Version) - 2004
* High angle rope rescue
(Ca. State Fire Marshal Version) - 2004
* Rescue systems 1
(Ca. State Fire Marshal Version) - 2005
* Confined space rescue ‘Operations’
(Ca. State Fire Marshal Version) - 2005

Since the training has began, we have taught the firefighters an accountability system, the use of individual rope bags, firefighter rescue, self-survival and other firefighter skills pertaining to the hazards of the everyday job.

Mexico Task Force 1 (MX-TF1)

(Team members learn to move large concrete, much of Mexico is concrete construction)

Working side by side with the current Fire Chief Sergio Martinez, we have been developing a fully functional Urban Search & Rescue Task Force within the department. We are working to create a team equal to a FEMA Heavy classification. The team identification is MEXICO TASK FORCE 1 (MX-TF1).

We feel that Ciudad Obregon is a prime geographical location for a team in Mexico. Most natural disasters in Mexico especially earthquakes and floods, are in central and southern Mexico. The Urban Search & Rescue Team of Ciudad Obregon would be able to mobilize and deploy to a disaster in hours, rather than international teams taking days.

Ciudad Obregon is located near a military base and an International Airport (CEN), this could make it more accessible for transportation via military transport to a disaster in any part of the country, and of course this would need to be worked out with the Mexican Military.

(Creating Rakers is an important part of shoring for rescue)

The size of the team is 32 with 5 additional firefighters trained as alternates to maintain the 32-member team. Of these members we have created a cache of instructors, * Confined Space Operations

* Rescue Systems
* Rope Rescue
* Team Training Officer

The team is made up of the following, * 1 Task Force Leader

* 1 Assistant Task Force Leader
* 30 Firefighter Team Members

Gathering equipment has also been a large task; the price of rescue equipment in Mexico is significantly more expensive than the United States. To date the Obregon FD has purchase about $4500 in equipment; ropes, hardware, software, wood, many hand tools and an Industrial Scientific M40 Air Monitor.

One project is the accumulation of lumber for cribbing and creating building shores and lifting heavy objects. I have been able to have scrap wood donated from the A Street School facility in Santa Maria (CA), they make pallets and donate scrap 2”x 4”s. This alone saves a significant amount of money because lumber is an expensive commodity in Mexico.

In 2005 with the help of the Woodland Hills Rotary Club, we were able to make two trips to Ciudad Obregon. In February 2005 Captain Ernie Ojeda and Captain Greg Terrill both with LA City Task Force 1 (both responded to the twin towers on 9/12) instructed a Rescue Systems 1 (heavy rescue) class along with a class on the organization and concepts of a USAR Team. From this training we molded the team into 1 team capable of operating in 3 squads to complete separate operations if needed.

(Not having Supplied Air Respirators, the team must use 1-hour air packs)

In March 2005 CDF/ San Luis Obispo County FD Captain Tom Swanson, a Senior Instructor and Captain Mark Cameron, instructed Confined Space Rescue Operations. They taught the skills necessary for making permit entries into confined spaces for rescue. Of course this is after a safe reading from the new Industrial Scientific M40, a 4-gas monitor that was purchased with the help of community groups in Ciudad Obregon. The team trained on making entries into tank rail cars, grain silos, chemical tanks and other confined space areas. The team learned the importance of making entry with a 60 or 30 minute SCBA instead of a SAR, which most rescue teams in the USA currently use. They understand the importance of having a backup people ready to replace the primary rescuer.

With these core classes being the meat of the USAR curriculum Mexico Task Force 1 has achieved a level of training to be an active Urban Search & Rescue Team. The Ciudad Obregon FD also understands their primary responsibility is for their city. The team is working to be a USAR resource at the state and federal level for the country of Mexico. Every year we hope to work on another component of their USAR training. The team has designated a Training Officer to continue monthly training to maintain their skills. The members of Mexico Task Force 1 are committed to a long career of training and the dedication for being prepared for the “what ifs” in the fire service.

(Horizontal entries with SCBA's)

The team is working on acquiring a Coca Cola or Pepsi type delivery truck for storage and transport of the USAR equipment.

To date the Woodland Hills Rotary Club has successfully delivered over $74,000 in firefighter training to the Ciudad Obregon Fire Department.

The following is a list of Master Instructors that have donated their expertise and time to the creation of Mexico Task Force 1, these instructors are-

* Engineer Greg Welch Santa Maria Fire Department
* Engineer Tony Clayburg Santa Maria Fire Department
* Captain Phil Hanon San Luis Obispo County/ CDF
* Captain Mark Cameron San Luis Obispo County/ CDF
* Captain Ernesto Ojeda Los Angeles City FD/ CA. Task Force 1
* Captain Greg Terrill Los Angeles City FD/ CA. Task Force 1
* Captain Tom Swanson San Luis Obispo County/ CDF

Today in the U.S. fire service we need to maintain and train on the firefighting skills we use everyday. In today’s all-risk fire department, we also need to have a vast knowledge of all disciplines in technical and specialized rescue; firefighters tend to be a jack-of-all-trades. I am working to bring Instructors who are Masters of their trade to instruct Mexico Task Force 1. This will make it possible to create Master Instructors in Mexico to further train other firefighters in Mexico.

The Ciudad Obregon Fire Department

(Central Station)

The department protects a population of 650,000 people with 4 fire stations. It operates 4 platoons working 24 hour shifts (1 on 3 off) with 1 Chief, 1 Assistant Chief and 44 full-time floor personnel, the department is supplemented by a large number of volunteers ranging in age from 12 to 60. There are 11 firefighters each day, the main station (Central) houses 3 on an engine and 2 on an ALS ambulance. Station 1, 2 and 3 each house an engine and 2 firefighters each day they are supplemented by a large amount of volunteers. Everyday the Ciudad Obregon Fire Department responds to all emergencies, such as:

* Vehicle accidents
* Structure fires
* Hazardous materials
* Back-up medical calls for the Red Cross ambulance service
* Grass fires
* Swift water rescue
* Killer bees (Africanized)

The department has recently acquired land for a training site. The department will be creating a facility with a classroom, training building for teaching RS1 and Confined Space Training. In the future the department will be starting a fire academy for other departments in the region to participate in.


Mexico Task Force 1 (MX-TF-1)

The department currently has an Accredited Medical Doctor that works as a volunteer firefighter. He is responsible for training firefighters to staff an ALS ambulance. The Paramedics are trained to a level of Advance Life Support. They can start IVs, administer medications and intubate. The Doctor carries a FD portable radio and maintains communication with the paramedics 24 hours day, 7 days a week. If there is a medical emergency that needs more attention, the doctor will respond to the scene. The paramedics will transport any victim(s) from any emergency and also respond to medical calls for the Red Cross when they are unavailable. The Red Cross ambulance tends to have equipment malfunctions regularly. The Ciudad Obregon Fire Department paramedics will always respond when needed but there primary responsibility is for the safety of firefighters at emergency scenes.

In conclusion, the Ciudad Obregon Fire Department is an assortment of great individuals; these individuals know the risks and dangers of the job. The firefighters are committed to obtain the best equipment and training available. This would not only be a benefit to them, but also to the citizens and visitors that come to this city year around knowing that their local firefighters are always prepared for the “what ifs” of firefighting.

Anyone having questions, please contact me,
Joe Martinez
Santa Maria, CA
(805) 348-0101 Home
(805) 878-3986 Cellular

Donor List
* Woodland Hills (CA) Rotary Club
* Santa Maria (CA) Firefighters LOCAL 2020- (CPF, IAFF)
* Ciudad Obregon (Mexico) Rotary Club
* “A” Street School- Santa Maria, CA
* Charles Moore- Charlotte (NC) Fire Department
* Michael Carriero- Industrial Scientific/ Titan Industrial & Safety Supply
* Guadalupe (CA) Fire Department
* Orcutt (CA) Fire Department
* Allan Hancock College- Santa Maria, CA


ABOUT THE WRITER: Hello everyone, my name is Joe Martinez, I am a career Firefighter with the Santa Maria Fire Department on the Central Coast of California. I have been traveling annually to Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico to train firefighters since the year 2000. I have a connection to Ciudad Obregon because this is where I met my wife and her family continues to reside.


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Monday, November 20, 2006

He aquí un pequeño homenaje al Departamento de Bomberos de Ciudad Obregón, Sonora,
al cual pertenecí por alrededor de 5 años como Bombero Voluntario, y, aunque actualmente
mis actividades me impiden seguir con esta actividad, me sigo sintiendo Bombero y creo que lo seré para siempre.

En este lugar conocí personas excelentes, todos con un gran espíritu de servicio.

Por lo pronto subiré fotos, después, con tiempo, agregaré comentarios y aportaciones de los bomberos.