Details on DHS Canada fire border incident

Nov. 20, 2007 at 9:05 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- House Democrats demand to know why U.S. border officials delayed a Canadian ambulance rushing a heart patient to surgery, the second recent such incident.

Inspectors from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, conducted a so-called secondary inspection of the ambulance at a Michigan border crossing, demanding ID from the emergency medical specialists and questioning the patient.

In a letter Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Border Subcommittee Chairwoman Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., and Emergency Response Subcommittee Chairman Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, asked for details of that incident, which happened Nov. 12, and another one last week.

On Nov. 11 a fire truck from Quebec province rushing to a blaze in Rouses Point, N.Y., was delayed for eight minutes, the letter says, "despite a longstanding mutual aid agreement between these two fire departments."

The lawmakers add they were assured "that the Rouses Point incident was an isolated one."

But the very next day, the letter says, the ambulance was delayed and officials took what lawmakers describe as the "astonishing" step of questioning the patient.

"It is imperative that emergency personnel are not delayed unnecessarily when responding to critical needs within border communities," states the letter, which asks for an explanation of the department's policies and procedures on the issue.

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