AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - There was no doubt a wildfire was near as we stopped on U.S. Highway 287 in the tiny community of Goodnight between Clarendon and Claude.
You could smell smoke in the darkness before dawn last week on the edge of the canyon where a wildfire had been burning for days.
As the sun rose, firefighters began to gather with coffee in hand for the start of the morning briefing about the work ahead.
Their shirts said where home was, like California and central Texas, but some were from a different country. Those were some of the 45 members of the Los Diablos Fire Crew who cross the Mexican border to respond to emergencies for the U.S. government. They are paid for their efforts, but have to go back across the Rio Grande after their work is done.
"This is the first time the Diablos have been in northern Texas, usually they don't get out of South Texas," said Jesus Bonicichi, crew chief. "This is our fifth day. We got reassigned. We were on another incident in South Texas."
While media coverage of the Mallard Fire had people talking about the burning canyon, down in the juniper, mesquite and yucca seasoned with sweat and smoke there was another story to tell. The men leave their families and culture to do the work all over the U.S. for a federal paycheck until they return home to wait for the next emergency or move on to another one already in progress.
"We have a lot of qualified sawyers with chainsaw capabilities, so that was our role here on this incident. We helped construct indirect fire lines," Bonicichi said.
Firefighter Jesus Quintela Galindo said the members of Los Diablos can be working away from home in rugged terrain for several weeks.
"I miss everything - my family, the food like tacos, the town where we live," he said. "Sometimes we are away for 40 days, so when we're away from home, it's impossible not to miss everything."
Firefighters from large and small departments around the region and the country put boots on the ground at this month's Mallard Fire with aid from planes and helicopters in the air, as well as other machinery in the canyon.
Meanwhile, the Diablos were using their hands and tools to knock out the flames and clear fuel away from the fire as they live up to their motto to "fight fire like devils."
They've been doing that since 1990 starting in the Big Bend National Park across the Rio Grande from the desert villages where they live.
"A lot of them are from Coahuila, the State of Coahuila, and the State of Chihuahua. The temperatures there are really extreme. We have 100 plus temperatures pretty much year long and the winters, they are really harsh winters. Rugged terrain," Galindo said. "They're able to handle those extreme conditions."
With the help of Los Diablos, crews were able to contain the Mallard Fire and move on to aid in other emergencies.