Bomberos, Border Patrol practice canal rescues

April 30, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE
  • Liliana Mercado, a Mexicali firefighter, throws a rope to Border Patrol Agent Randy Porter. CUAUHTEMOC BELTRAN PHOTO

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — A Mexicali bombero, or firefighter, hurled an orange Res Q Disc into the waters of the Central Main Canal here to "save" a member of the Border Patrol's Search, Trauma and Rescue team.

It splashed behind the agent. He was unable to grasp the yellow rope attached to the disc as he floated downstream.

With dry BORSTAR agents and her Mexicali peers cheering the bombero, Liliana Mercado picked up another disc and chucked it toward the agent.

This time Mercado arced the disc just right so it landed beyond the agent. The attached rope smacked him in the head. He held onto the rope as Mercado pulled him in like a fisherwoman.


Around a dozen Mexicali officers from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including bomberos, received hands-on search and rescue training from BORSTAR agents on the bank of the Central Main on Monday.

The agents hope the training helps the Mexicali officers save lives, according to Border Patrol spokesman Manuel Figueroa.

"They work in the deserts, near canals, the same areas we do," he said.

In addition to showing the Mexicali officers the proper way to throw a Res Q Disc, the agents demonstrated how to string a rope across a canal to save someone who is drowning and the proper way to set up rescue efforts along waterways, such as canals, to maximize available resources.

The model for a comprehensive waterways plan is the system set up by the Los Angeles Fire Department, according to BORSTAR Senior Patrol Agent John Furtak.

He said the LAFD has mapped out all the Los Angeles aqueducts and canals and figured out a way to coordinate rescue efforts where there is the greatest chance to save a drowning victim. The same techniques are used by BORSTAR agents when they save someone here in the Imperial Valley.

Like the LAFD, "We pre-plan and use what's there for the rescue," Furtak said.

He hoped to pass on that information to the Mexicali officers.

For instance, using what's there means coordinating rescue efforts at an available bridge just downstream instead of jumping into a canal at a dangerous spot or figuring out a way to get a drowning victim to an eddy and then dragging him out.

To help the Mexicali officers learn more about eddies and the nature of canals, the agents showed their counterparts a power point presentation earlier Monday, Furtak said.

Mexicali police Officer Carlos Alberto Ramos Trigo said the information he picked up during the weeks of training will be put to use when bomberos or Grupo BETA agents who work around the border request assistance in rescue efforts.

Normally he and his fellow police officers don't engage in rescue efforts but they will if needed, he said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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