July 11, 2002

Santa Rosalia gets some security from M.B. (7/11)

By Cindy Yoshiyama

Last December, a major fire swept through the town of Santa Rosalia, Mexico, killing a father and son, and burning down more than 40 homes. With no fire hydrant system in place, residents were forced to bulldoze six homes to stop the flames from destroying more property.

To help make sure that a disaster of this magnitude doesn't happen again, the Mexican town recently turned to its Sister City, Manhattan Beach, and along with some generous help from the Chevron Fire Department, Santa Rosalia residents will soon have a new fire hydrant system.

Five members of the Manhattan Beach Sister City Committee along with two Chevron firefighters last week took a trip to Santa Rosalia, where they informed the city that they would be donating $25,000 worth of fire hydrant equipment.

Chevron Fire Capt. Mike Granados said it was fortunate timing that MBSCC made the request when it did, since the refinery was just replacing 86 of its hydrants with newer models.

"By chance, we had stuff around and we had equipment we weren't using because we're upgrading our facilities," he said. "The equipment is almost like new."

Granados and fellow Battalion Chief Roxy Rodriguez surveyed the damage from the fire in Santa Rosalia and assessed the problems with its fire system.

"They have no fire water," Granados said. "They're hooking into their city water mains. I explained how they'll have to route their water in case of another fire. We basically did some training

and showed them how they can make their fire equipment more efficient."

With the new hydrant system, the city's Fire Department will be able to flow more than 1,000 gallons of water per minute.

Previously, the department had a truck that could only hold 2,000 gallons of water and would take 20 minutes to refill. The next closest fire engines are two hours away.

Granados said the department will also be donating more than 1,300 feet of high-combat fire hose, suits, boots, uniforms and 34 hydrants.

In addition, CFD will be going down to Santa Rosalia in October to help with engineering the layout of the new system.

The "City of Wood," as Santa Rosalia is referred to, is located near the Sea of Cortez and was founded in 1885 by the French. It operated as a copper mining town until its resources were depleted.

Now, the city's economy is based mostly on fishing, tourism, and some mining of gypsum and manganese.

According to Manhattan Beach Sister City Committee President Michael Rossi, the city gets very little financial assistance from the federal government and he hopes that the MBSCC can help the residents to strengthen their economy.

The nonprofit's involvement with the project is its first step at expanding the organization's mission, he said.

"We're not just going to give charity relief," he said. "We want to help with their life-sustaining efforts and give general fund-raising ideas. They have a lot of assets that could bring in more economic resources. We want to help them to empower themselves."

The MBSCC will continue to try and raise money for other items the town needs including an ambulance, school buses, crutches, walkers and clothing.

Currently, the organization is compiling a cookbook with recipes from Santa Rosalia residents, which will be sold as a fund-raiser.

The group also aims to find more professionals who are willing to help build a more stable economy in the town.

Donations for Santa Rosalia can be sent to Manhattan Beach Sister City Committee, Inc., P.O. Box 278, Manhattan Beach 90266; or for more information, call Rossi at 528-4354.