EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The El Paso Fire Department’s Water Rescue Team showed KTSM how they train for their busy season even though they said this year the number of water rescues has gone down.
Capt. Chris Menendez, coordinator for the Water Rescue unit, said this time last year they were called out for 43 incidents, while this year that number is only at 20.
He explained this is due to lack of rain during the monsoon season.
In their extensive training at the Ascarate Lake, the team works in pairs and recreates different scenarios in a rescue water craft.
“From maneuvering through buoys, to self-rescue to rescuing others in the water,” Menendez said.
In El Paso, the unit mostly gets called out for water rescues, involving migrants, in the Rio Grande or different canals fed from the river.
“Now with the border being protected by the different agencies that are there, more of a profile has slowed down water rescues, which is great. People aren’t getting swept away by the canal water so that’s good, but in the seasons when we don’t have such a presence on the border those numbers usually go up,” Menendez said.
The crew is currently preparing for their annual training in Galveston, Texas to get qualifications to be a part of the Texas Task Force.
The unit will often go to different parts of Texas to assist whenever there’s a need.
Menendez recalled being a part of the crew during the 2017 Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area.
He said they helped save over 100 people from drowning.
While the rescue crew sees plenty of pain and families losing their loved ones, Menendez said it is an honor to be able to make that difference between life and death.
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