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'We were left behind,' tribal official says

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20071025/news_2m25tribes.html We were left behind, tribal official says Rincon Indians lose 65 structures By Onell R.
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 25, 2007
      http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20071025/news_2m25tribes.html

      'We were left behind,' tribal official says

      Rincon Indians lose 65 structures

      By Onell R. Soto
      STAFF WRITER

      October 25, 2007

      A day after fire swept through the Rincon Indian reservation in North
      County, destroying 65 homes, trailers and other buildings, a tribal council
      member wondered when outside help would arrive.

      “We were left behind, nobody here to help,” Councilwoman Stephanie Spencer
      said yesterday. “We are doing everything we can with our casino and all our
      resources here, but they don't last forever.”

      The Rincon and La Jolla reservations were hit hard by the Poomacha fire
      Tuesday morning, with tribal members and others seeking refuge in the
      Harrah's Rincon casino near Valley Center.

      As of yesterday afternoon, 350 people remained at the casino-hotel.

      Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the
      Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Red Cross and other
      agencies will meet with tribal leaders Tuesday at Rincon, said Jim
      Fletcher, Southern California superintendent for the Bureau of Indian
      Affairs.

      Riverside County tribes, including Pechanga, Soboba and Torres-Martinez,
      are offering space on their reservations as evacuation centers for Indians
      displaced from San Diego County, Fletcher said.

      The San Diego Foundation has begun a special fund for the tribes.
      Information is at www.sdfoundation.org- /fire2007.

      This year's fires rank with the 2003 Paradise and Cedar fires as the worst
      disasters to hit Indian Country in Southern California, Fletcher said.

      “We thought we had a chance,” said Tracy Nelson, chairman of the La Jolla
      Band of Mission Indians.

      That changed Monday night, when the Poomacha fire began at a house that
      ignited on the La Jolla reservation, possibly from a power line blown down
      by high winds, Nelson said.

      “It just took off like you wouldn't believe,” Nelson said.

      About 400 people live in more than 200 homes on the reservation; at least
      28 homes have been destroyed, he said.

      The fire still was burning parts of the reservation last night.

      “This has just shocked the entire community,” Nelson said. “We're just
      trying to pull ourselves together.”

      He has been heartened by how other tribes have pitched in so far, offering
      refuge and food.

      “It's really incredible,” Nelson said. “Everybody came to help us in this
      time of need.”
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