Tuesday, December 01, 2015 • 10:59

Letters to the editor

Setting the record strait

February 10, 2014
The Rincon Tribal Council was surprised and dismayed by your January 31 article on the hiring of Battalion chiefs for the VCFPD. The implications one might draw from the story is that Rincon is not concerned with providing adequate fire protection for our neighbors in Valley Center and San Pasqual. This is simply not true. The facts are, that in addition to memorandums of mutual aid, the Rincon Band funds a fire department with 30 employees, including trained paramedics, with 24/7 coverage at a cost of $3.1 million a year. This department's budget underwrites answering emergency calls in all our neighboring communities, often as first responders to traffic or residential accidents, fire suppression, and ambulance and paramedic calls. Over 50 percent of these calls originate outside of the reservation.

The department is well equipped for high-rise, residential and with specialized wildfire suppression trucks and equipment, which is part of our commitment to readiness, protection, and insurance against another major wildfire ravaging our communities. We also fund the only 24/7 ambulance service carrying trained paramedics, which responds to all distress calls.

Additionally, the Rincon Band contracts for an extra Sheriff's patrol at $720,000 annually to serve the residents of Valley Center and the Rincon reservation. Our nearly $1 million investment in a tribal security force acts in concert and with support for the Sheriffs'.

From our point of view, there is a big difference between adequate personnel staffing for local fire protection— a service level we currently support with personnel and dollars -- and the desire for three battalion chiefs. As government representatives, we appreciate the tug and pull between the Ford and Cadillac levels of service. Finding the balance between the two is not always easy, but necessary to keep costs within affordable boundaries.

We apologize for what may have appeared as an unwillingness to respond to the request by the VCFPD and the San Pasqual Tribal Fire Department. We were not aware of deadlines for response. The Rincon Tribal Council has had only one presentation of the request and, at that time, agreed, we needed more information before making a financial commitment of $257,000 (a twoyear contract) for the VCFPD to hire three battalion chiefs at an annual cost of $394.006.

Our concern is that battalion chiefs are specially trained and certified managers – hence the higher salaries. We must justify to our community whether another level of administration for the VCFPD, improves fire safety on the Rincon reservation. We are not convinced that it does.

Given the contract for service is between Valley Center and the San Pasqual Tribe, perhaps there is a less expensive way for the fire district to provide additional 24/7 backup for the fire chief, such as well-trained captains. Additionally, we are informed the Pauma Band would be sharing the costs. We have recently confirmed that the tribe is not participating.

In closing, the Rincon Tribal government is reviewing the situation and request; we are hopeful that improving the lines of communication and accuracy of information will lead to a satisfactory resolution of the issue.

Bo Mazzetti Chairman, Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians.

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