Mountainair Fire, EMS, and Public Works Conduct Rescue During Flood

Mountainair Fire, EMS, and Public Works Conduct Rescue During Flood
Red Bluff Road, the day after two individuals were rescued on the road by Mountainair Fire, EMS, and Public Works Personnel.

The call came out from Torrance County Dispatch at approximately 10:30 PM, after monsoon rain and flooding on Saturday, June 29, 2024: two individuals in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) had gotten stuck in an arroyo on Red Bluff Road west of the Mountainair Cemetary. Soaking wet from the rain, they were complaining of symptoms of hypothermia.

Mountainair's EMTs responded to the call in the department's brush truck. They reported back to dispatch that they found the two individuals (names withheld for HIPAA compliance) intoxicated and rain-drenched in the ATV. The individuals had a rifle and a pit bull-type dog in the ATV.

Later, other Red Bluff Road residents would add details regarding the two stuck in the arroyo: one had seen the two driving in their ATV the night before, that time without their lights on. They were also visibly intoxicated and armed on that occasion, the resident said. Another resident identified the two as individuals believed to be squatting in a nearby home.

EMS retrieved the two individuals and their dog. EMS personnel then learned that the brush truck had gotten stuck in the mud during the rescue. A second off-road vehicle arrived on the scene. This vehicle would also get stuck. As fire chief Josh Archuleta noted in the July 2, 2024, town council meeting, it took a grader from Mountainair's Public Works Department to retrieve the off-road vehicle and the brush truck. EMS Chief Josh Lewis said it took fire and EMS personnel until approximately 3:00 AM to recover and treat the two individuals. Afterward, EMS tried to find the individuals dry clothing and a hotel room, eventually allowing them to stay in Alpine Alley Cafe. Their dog was taken to a local animal shelter. Lewis stated that the following Mountainair Fire and EMS personnel had been instrumental in rescuing the two individuals: EMS technician Toni Alguire, firefighter Tayler Anaya, Public Works Superintendent Carl Archuleta, firefighter Carrie Archuleta, Public Works employee Daniel Archuleta, firefighter Jeanie Archuleta, fire chief Josh Archuleta, and EMS chief Josh Lewis. An unnamed youth volunteer with Mountainair Fire Department was also involved in the rescue.

The cost of rescuing people whose negligence led to search and rescue operations has reverberated in outdoor sports, particularly among backpackers and climbers. Some states, such as New Hampshire, charge negligent individuals who require rescue with reckless conduct violations. The National Park Service spends between $6 and $7 million per year on search and rescue operations. New Mexico does not charge individuals for the cost of search and rescue operations.

The two rescued individuals were back on their ATV that Sunday, driving over the flood-damaged roads. Speaking with the author, one said with a chuckle, "Oh yeah, it was pretty dangerous. I had to get rescued."

Update 20240703 1221 MDT: EMS Chief Josh Lewis added that he would like to thank Ben Dougherty, Torrance County Dispatch Supervisor.

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