Firemen’s Day Tribute/ Dia del Bombero
Tara a. Spears
In fire stations all across Mexico, Saturday was a day of recognition and celebration in honor of all firefighters who work such a high-risk profession. It is these dedicated men and women who safeguard the life and property of citizens in the event of fire, flood, accidents, and natural disasters. On this day, firefighters are honored for their courage and contribution to the community. In Jaltemba Bay, the Guayabitos station hosted a ceremony and dinner for the firefighters and their families.
After a Catholic mass, Father did a special blessing for the continued safety of the firefighters. Next, a tasty luncheon was served while music played in the background. The young children were given a spiffy hard hat to take home! The firefighters themselves where decked out in complementary shirts that display the state logo and have an affirmative slogan on the back: loosely translated ‘Nothing can put out the vocation of service’.
This day has its origins in the first corps of firefighters in the port of Veracruz on 22 August 1873. In 1880, President Porfirio Diaz created the first Corps of firefighters in the City of Mexico. The fire stations didn’t install telephones until 1901.
It wasn’ t until 1914 that the government provided the fire department in its first gasoline-powered vehicles, thus eliminating the use of mules and horses. In Mexico, the firefighters are paid mostly by the municipalities or in very rural areas there are also volunteer firefighters.
This year the western United States and Canada are experiencing numerous wildfires. Many Mexican firefighters have headed north to help control these fires. Although the issue of immigration and border controls has strained US-Mexico relations recently, the Mexican fire crews say they were greeted by their American counterparts as brother firefighters. In addition, 62 Mexican firefighters from the Jalisco area are heading to Edmonton to help contain the 90 blazes currently burning in the province.
Mexican firefighters must do more with less equipment and often must do it faster than their US colleagues. Since virtually all US and Canadian homes and buildings must have insurance coverage and also fire sprinklers, US firefighters can let structures burn completely to keep a fire from spreading. But insurance and fire safeguards are less common in Mexico, especially wooden houses in poor city districts.
“We have to risk more because if a house in Mexico is burning, that may be the only thing the family has,” said Jimenez, explaining that Mexican firefighters must attack a blaze quickly to protect a building.
With no extra pay for their California, Washington, or Oregon firefighting work this past week, the difference is seen in the type of lodging these volunteers have: American firefighters arriving from outside the country with the fire have been staying in hotels while the Mexicans have been in tents near the immediate fire area. The Bomberos rest in sleeping bags, not on cots but tent floors. Still the Bomberos are glad to be in America helping. “It’s a new experience,” said Luis Jimenez, 29, who 15 years ago began fighting fires in Tijuana as a 14-year-old trainee.
Put this number next to your telephone, or directly into your contact list, so that it is handy before an emergency arises. This is the direct line to the Guayabitos dispatcher who will send an ambulance or fire fighting unit. Since it is a land line, you will need to dial 045- 327-274-3578 if you use a cell phone to place the call. The dispatch center always has a bilingual person available to assist the visiting non-Spanish caller.
It’s also comforting to know that if a severe storm is eminent, such as a hurricane that early warnings are broadcast on the Las Varas AM radio station. If necessary, the firefighters will assist the police in evacuating residents as needed.
The quality of life in Jaltemba Bay is better because of having trained EMTs and firemen on hand- a huge thank you to them!