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Property Owner Says Firefighters Waited Too Long

Published On: May 21 2013 08:10:57 PM CDT   Updated On: May 23 2013 10:04:19 AM CDT

Brush fire crosses state lines heading toward Santa Teresa Middle School

EL PASO, Texas -

The El Paso Fire Department is apologizing in advance after a property owner says firefighters would not put out a blaze at his home because they believed it was in New Mexico.

EPPD Assistant Chief Carlos Carmona says that although he has not investigated the claim by the owner of the property that caught fire, he says it appears the department's rules of engagement were not followed.

"We will address it, we are concerned, we do care and it won't happen again," Carmona said.

Sam Legate's property line sits on the edge of the Texas-New Mexico border.  There is no defined border between the states in that part of the Upper Valley, but Legate says he lives in El Paso.

Police officers from Sunland Park, New Mexico surveyed the fire damage Tuesday afternoon. They admit the boundary line is not clear to them either.  They say they generally use the levy as the line between the states, though even that changes at certain spots.

Legate says the boundary between the states was unclear to firefighters on Monday when EPFD was dispatched to his street in the Upper Valley.

He said he pleaded with firefighters for their help, but they said there was nothing they could do because the incident commander said the fire on his property was in New Mexico.

Carmon said even if the fire was in New Mexico, firefighters are instructed to engage wherever they need to mitigate damage.  He said the incident commander will now undergo special training so that he is informed of the proper rules of engagement for El Paso firefighters.


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