Despite raging wildfires across the American Southwest in recent weeks, the state of California sent more than four dozen firefighters 300 miles south of the U.S. border to battle blazes in Mexico.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) last week dispatched two engine strike teams with a total of ten engines and 54 personnel after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office approved a request by Baja California Gov. Eugenio Elorduy Walther.

“This is believed to be the first time that CDF personnel have traveled so far beyond the border to assist its neighbor,” said CDF Fire Capt. Jesse Estrada. “Under longstanding agreements through the Border Agency Fire Council response agreements are in place for assistance for one mile over each side of the border. A response this far into Mexico required thorough planning and logistical support.”

He maintains the state “was able to fill the request while still remaining ready to respond to any wildfires here in California.”

Even though the teams returned on Friday, the idea of sending U.S. firemen to Mexico when American states are in the midst of major conflagrations has some people shaking their heads.

Mexica Movement activists protest in L.A.

“How can we send our American firefighters to a hostile, Third World country where just months ago, the same citizens who are here illegally in the U.S., were chanting ‘DIE GRINGO’ as they marched down the streets and waived the Mexican flag? Are we stupid?” one relative of a California firefighter told WND.

“Worse, what protection is offered to U.S. firefighters if they get hurt … ? What protection do they have from disease while in Mexico? Who is paying for CDF to fight fire in Mexico? Certainly Mexico isn’t. That’s right folks – again, it’s the good ol’ USA taxpayer footing the bill for Mexicans in their own country. This is more loco than the human mind can comprehend. … It’s pathetic.”

This weekend, 23 large blazes were burning more than 275,000 acres in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, officials have reported 54,686 wildfires have scorched some 3.2 million acres nationwide this year, three times the average of just over 1 million acres by this time.

Experts are concerned about tinderbox conditions that could spark a season of historic severity.

“Basically, you have had low precipitation since the late 1990s, and now, a winter in which we got close to no precipitation” in the Southwest, Chuck Maxwell, a meteorologist with the Department of the Interior, told the Los Angeles Times. “The fuel moisture levels are very low. The humidity is very low. There are lots of places now that are as dry as we have ever seen them.”

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