Rockslide rescue missions train in ABQ

Rescue dog searching for natural disaster victims

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As we’ve seen too often lately, mudslides and rockslides happen with little warning, and often bury people alive leaving rescuers little time to find them.

While you might not think that kind of thing can happen in New Mexico, it does. Friday, KRQE News 13 tagged along with rescue crews as they practiced skills they’ll need when it does.

As rescue crews hiked down the rugged Petroglyphs National Monument in Albuquerque for a training mission called, Operation Rockslide, Friday’s victim crawled into his hiding spot buried under a rock-pile.

“It’s an opportunity for multiple agencies to exercise together in the time of need should there be some type of local disaster, like that they had in Washington,” said Daniel Barela, with New Mexico Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue.

Back in March, a rain-swept hillside gave way to a devastating mudslide in Washington, killing more than 40 people. Hundreds of crews had to sift through debris and rubble. It took weeks to find the missing.

While it may not be likely in New Mexico, heavy rains have caused trench-like mudslides into homes right beneath the Petroglyphs last September.

The fast-moving mud broke through a cinderblock wall and gushed into a man’s yard and back door.

Friday’s practice mission serves multiple purposes. The Petroglyphs pose the perfect terrain for training missions, since it’s what rescuers could encounter during a rock slide.

“It’s similar to that of a structural collapse and that’s why we are working this area, but as well it is pretty remote and it mimics a lot of the areas in New Mexico that we might encounter,” explained Barela.

During Friday’s mission, as the search dog was let loose, his scent lead him down the rugged rocks with the speed and agility his handlers don’t have.

The golden retriever was looking for people alive in the rocks and within minutes he found him.

It’s a skill crews need in rescue missions whether it be lost hikers, bodies buried, or someone stuck, waiting for help.

“It may not be a rockslide or a mudslide, but it may be a major flood or an earthquake or anything like that, and it definitely prepares our local entities to be able to handle that,” said Barela.

The New Mexico search and rescue crews who took part in Friday’s mission are sponsored by the state, but, they can also be called up to help in a national disaster. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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