Last Thursday, an image of a firefighting team from Guanajuato, Mexico, went viral as they landed at Medford Airport to help battle the wild flames ravaging everything in their path in Almeda, Oregon.
Captain Aldo Iván Ruiz, Captain Juan Armando Alvarez Villegas, Sargent Jorge Luis Anguiano Jasso, Sargent Luis Alfonso Campos Martínez and firefighter Miguel Ángel Hernández Lara all arrived with their city’s mayor, Alejandro Navarro, on Thursday, Portland Monthly reported.
That evening, the Guanajuato mayor said they had already begun their work, “very moved by the terrible impact of the fire on families and their homes.”
The five firefighters of the Mexican state — among them a paramedic and a veterinarian — said they were willing to “collaborate in whatever way they can,” according to Univision.
“The little we have been able to see because the areas are inaccessible because it is devastated, the truth is very sad to see the areas, both common on the side of the road and the residential areas are completely destroyed,” said Jorge Luis Anguiano, sergeant of Heroico Cuerpo de Bomberos de Guanajuato.
Echoing the brotherhood between Ashland and Guanajuato’s cities, the firefighters came to lend a hand to a community where 40% of the victims are immigrant farmers who live and work to make a living, the media continued.
“As soon as we heard about it, we were anxious to come and help our sister city and the state, which in the end is already part of us.”
According to a Fire Department’s Facebook post, these men have previously trained in Southern Oregon and will be providing support, with the five firefighters the first team to be dispatched to the area.
The arrival of the brave firefighters coincided with the emergency order issued by Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler on Thursday, due to the “extreme wildfire conditions threatening lives and property,” according to Katu2.
According to governor Kate Brown, Oregon wildfires approach 1 million acres, “twice the state’s yearly average.”
“We are now approaching over 900,000 acres burned across the state,” Gov. Brown said. “To put that in perspective, in the last ten years, we see an average of 500,000 acres burn in an entire year. We’ve seen that nearly double in the past three days.”
The Mexican fire department’s immediate response has provoked powerful reactions on social media, among those who recognize the symbolism of a team from the neighboring country coming to help the country when it needs it most.
“We are really, really heartened by the ‘bomberos,’ firefighters from our (Ashland’s) sister-city of Guanajuato who were willing to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice and have come to try to help the firefighting,” said Chris Chambers, spokesman for Ashland Fire and Rescue.
Chambers said the crew had even paid for their own trip, though the Ashland department helped out with lodging.
Immigrant rights activist Juan Escalante shared the image of the firefighters on Twitter with the caption “When Mexico sends its people…” referring to President Donald Trump’s campaign comments more than four years ago when he described Mexicans as “traffickers, rapists,” and “bad hombres.”
When Mexico sends its people… https://t.co/Y8pHelZ2UC
— Juan Escalante (@JuanSaaa) September 11, 2020
“What spoke to me about the foto that your colleague (Rodriguez) shared was essentially that at a time when we have a very divisive president who is inclined to disparage our allies and insult people, there are still people — specifically our neighbors, firefighters from Mexico — who are willing to answer the call and still come out,” Escalante told News 10.
He noted that the image is demonstrative of the solidarity he feels still exists between the two countries despite Trump’s comments.
“It’s a powerful photo for that sense, and it’s a powerful image because it shows that no matter what the president says about the Mexican people, (they) are willing to step up and lend a hand,” he said.