- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico officials say they’ll appeal a decision by federal emergency managers to strip a state-managed urban search and rescue team of its federal status and funding.

New Mexico Task Force 1, which was one of 28 elite urban search and rescue teams in the county, was removed last week from the list of qualified response teams, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (https://bit.ly/1MIEhau ).

The unit “belongs in our state, and we are fully committed to doing whatever it takes to keep it that way,” said M. Jay Mitchell, head of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency cited the team’s ongoing struggles with finances, training and falsified training certificates.

The decision means the task force will no longer receive millions of dollars for specialized training and equipment that have contributed to the state’s capability to respond to disasters.

“It will be too expensive for any state agency to pick up the tab,” said Jan Snyder, a Santa Fe city firefighter who has served on the search and rescue team. “The task force would be a terrible resource to lose.”

The emergency response teams each have 70 members and are trained in such tasks as assessing the stability of buildings during a disaster, evaluating hazardous materials and rescuing victims.

Members can include specialists such as structural engineers and physicians.

Mitchell acknowledged that the task force has long-standing issues but said officials have worked to correct them.

The 27 other teams are run by municipal fire departments, not a state agency, and New Mexico plans to adopt that approach.

Karen Takai, spokeswoman for the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said officials are in the process of turning the team over to the city of Albuquerque by January.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com

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