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Firefighters raise money for injured fellow firefighter

May 30, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — Heriberto "Eddie" Arizaga Jr. drove his new truck into Mexico on Friday.

He returned Saturday to the United States in the back of an ambulance.

According to eyewitness reports, Arizaga, a 23-year-old reserve firefighter for the Imperial County Fire Department, was returning to the U.S. on Saturday in his pickup with two friends when a car cut him off.

Arizaga swerved and his vehicle hit a curb and his new, deep purple truck hit a pole.

Arizaga's head was pinned in the wreckage. Bystanders pulled him free and he was rushed to a Mexicali emergency room.

After his condition was stabilized he was driven to the El Centro Regional Medical Center. From there he was airlifted to the trauma ward of University of California San Diego Medical Center.

He has been diagnosed with a skull fracture, facial cuts and bruises.

In the days since the accident, Arizaga has been undergoing treatment in the trauma ward for his cranial swelling. While the swelling has decreased, he is still in critical condition, according to Imperial County Firefighters Association president Angel Morales.

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He said Arizaga is expected to regain all of his faculties but there is no timetable on how long that will take.

On Tuesday the association started what they expect to be a weeks-long effort to pass the helmet among themselves and seek financial assistance from the public to help pay Arizaga's medical bills.

Since Arizaga is a reserve firefighter he receives no medical benefits from the county.

According to the association's statement: "Heriberto and his parents lack the financial resources and the health care insurance to pay for the medical and other associated expenses."

Donations can be made payable to the Imperial County Firefighters Association and mailed to 2514 La Brucherie Road. Imperial, CA 92251 or deposited at Government Agencies Federal Credit Union account No. 4002000 special account No. 7.

Morales said Arizaga's family was greeted with a $40,000 bill from UCSD Medical Center when he arrived in San Diego.

Arizaga had been excited about the loan approval that allowed him to purchase his truck and was thinking about moving to San Diego to be close to his fiancée, who works there, according to Morales.

Arizaga, an Imperial High School graduate, joined the county Fire Department when he was 18, as soon as he was eligible.

Firefighter Luis Andrade said Arizaga had hoped to be a full-time firefighter one day.

He was described by Morales as a man who enjoyed working out and working on vehicles.

He frequently tried to pick up extra shifts at the Imperial station and was extremely dependable, Morales added.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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