Skip to Content

SPECIAL REPORT: EPFD’s water rescue team dealing with busiest season due to migrant surge

They’re ready to jump in at a moment’s notice.

The El Paso Fire Department’s swift water rescue team trains in the canals and waterways that it often has to conduct rescues or recoveries.

“We like to train where we play,” El Paso Water Rescue coordinator Kris Menendez said. “We’ve been in the water, we know what it can do. We’ve practiced in the water. We know what we can and can’t do. We know to stay away from certain areas that you can’t see.”

Menendez said that in the month of June his team has already responded to seven rescues or recoveries. Last water season, which he defined as June – September, his team responded to 11 incidents.

Across El Paso County, nine bodies have already been recovered since May. Authorities fear this number could increase because of the increase in migrants looking to cross over into the United States.


“The hardest part I think about the job about the rescues is children,” Menendez said. “One reason or another, they’re in the canal system, and I think that’s the hardest part is finding kids in the water.”

The team is composed of 18 members. All of them go through the El Paso Fire Academy, and then must do an additional eight months of training before they can become certified as water rescuers.

“On average we use two water rescue members. One that jumps in the water to actually physically make contact with the person that needs rescue, and then we have one person on a rope that holds them,” Menendez said.

Each member of the team wears a wet suit equipped with a flotation device, lights, whistles and ropes.

“The gear itself in totality weighs maybe about 15-20 pounds,” Menendez said.

Menendez said the water can reach depths of more than nine feet in the canal near the Rio Grande.

“It’s deceiving. you really don’t know how deep it is,” he said. “There are signs all throughout the area that say stay out. Honor that. Respect the water.”

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo



KVIA ABC 7 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content