I saw the man's face as he drove by us. His expression and the wave of his hand was that of a man who knew us. He was driving a Chevrolet Pick-up, a '99 I think.. I didn't recognize the man or his truck, but I noticed the Mexican plate affixed to the bumper as he parked a little farther down the alley, behind the big house of pain.
The man walked up to us, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. He told us he was from a fire department in in northern Baja, about an hour south of the border and he was looking for Manny or Rodrigo. He seemed disappointed when I told him that Manny had retired a year ago and that Rodrigo was off duty.
My firefighter offered to call Rodrigo, he had his number stored in his phone. While we waited for the call to be made, the man asked if I spoke Spanish. Despite growing up in the barrio, I had to tell him no. Although he didn't seem comfortable speaking English, he spoke English well enough for us to converse.
The man told me that he was el Jefe (Chief) of his department, a fairly large department by Mexican standards. He said that he had about 175 bomberos under him and that he had just been appointed Chief a few months ago.
He said that he had come North, looking for surplus wildland firefighting equipment. He told me that his department had little gear, adding "you know how it is in Mexico".
My firefighter reached Rodrigo and handed the phone to el Jefe. They conversed in Spanish for about five minutes or so, then El Jefe handed the phone to me. Rodrigo told me that he had given el Jefe the number of another member of our district, one whom controls safety apparel and equipment. Rodrigo also said that el Jefe was likely out of luck, as we really don't have much surplus equipment right now, our spending on new equipment has been reduced drastically.
As we had to return to our station, I wished el Jefe well, jumped on the rig and we returned to the healing place. I do wish el Jefe well. He has the same goals that I have. He wants to lead an effective team and he wants his people to be equipped as to operate with a certain degree of safety.
El Jefe seemed intelligent, educated and he seemed like a nice guy. The most noticeable difference between us, was that he felt forced to travel North, seeking donations of surplus equipment. I guess it would be like me, if I had to drive south to Beverly Hills and ask them for surplus gear.
I don't envy el Jefe. After all he is just a Jose Schmoe, trying to keep los lobos from la puerta. He just doesn't have the tools.
Thanks for reading,
1 hour ago