Home Valley Beat Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians supports fallen firefighters

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians supports fallen firefighters

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Members of the Soboba Tribal Council unanimously agreed to support the Riverside County Professional Firefighters Benevolent Fund in the aftermath of the Aug. 6, 2023 mid-air collision of two helicopters that were suppressing a fire in the community of Cabazon. Cal Fire Assistant Chief Josh Bischof, Cal Fire Captain Tim Rodriguez and Exclusive Use Pilot Tony Sousa all perished. Officials said a total of six aircraft were in the air responding to the fire at the time.

The benevolent fund had reached out to the Soboba Fire Department and asked if they could help as the Rodríguezes were coming from out of state and the local family had no availability to lodge them. Tribal Council authorized the Soboba Casino Resort to provide lodging to Tim Rodriguez’s parents and other family members after the tragic accident and through the funeral service.

Rodriguez, 44, was born at San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital in Banning. He was raised in Hemet where he graduated from West Valley High School in 1997. He attended Mt. San Jacinto College where he pursued an education in Fire Technology. Rodriguez worked at several fire stations before returning to his passion at Hemet Ryan Air Attack Base in 2022 as a Helitack Fire Captain.

Founded in 2006, the Riverside County Professional Firefighters Benevolent Fund proudly supports firefighters and cooperators in Riverside County. The firefighters of Riverside County provide fire and EMS services to one of the largest counties in California. It is the goal of the Riverside County Professional Firefighters Benevolent Fund to be able to support those men and women in their time of need. The organization also supports other nonprofit organizations that are affiliated with the fire service, such as cancer research and the burn institutes.

A token of appreciation was presented to Soboba Tribal Council on April 30 at the Soboba Fire Station. | Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

According to Director of Finance Matt Brandt, prior to the formation of the RCPFBF there was no support organization for the families of injured or fallen firefighters in Riverside County. “Years later the Cal Fire Benevolent Foundation would be formed by Cal Fire Local 2881, to serve their members throughout the state,” he explained. “While labor laws have change to provide more support for firefighters, there is still a tremendous burden placed on families when a firefighter suffers injury or death; this is where the RCPFBF steps in and can provide assistance that the departments cannot.”

The nonprofit was organized for the purpose of providing physical, financial and emotional support to members and their families during times of need, Brandt said, adding “Our support is provided by an all-volunteer Board of Directors in a non-political and non-denominational manner.”

Brandt was on the Cal Fire Local 2881, Riverside District Board as a Rank & File Representative in 2006. “In 2008, I became the Director of Finance for both Cal Fire Local 2881, Riverside District and the RCPFBF.  Since then, the two boards have separated into two different entities, and I have remained,” he said.

“The RCPFBF Board of Directors all agreed on providing the key supporters with recognition for their support of the families of Fire Captain Tim Rodriguez and Assistant Chief Josh Bischof,” Brandt said. “The indirect support that was provided to both families was greatly appreciated. Cal Fire and the State of California can provide staffing and indirect support to the families of fallen firefighters but cannot provide any direct financial support. The financial burden is placed on the families and is offset by support of Cal Fire Local 2881, the Cal Fire Benevolent Foundation, the Riverside County Professional Firefighters Benevolent Fund and key supporters like Soboba. If it was not for this support, the families would have to bear the burden of costs.”

Members of the Soboba Tribal Council are presented with a token of appreciation from the Riverside County Professional Firefighters Benevolent Fund at the Soboba Fire Station, April 30. From left, Soboba Fire Chief Glenn Patterson, Michael Bentiste, Isaiah Vivanco, RCPFBF Director of Finance Matt Brandt, Daniel Valdez, Monica Herrera and Geneva Mojado.

For more information and to make donations, please visit www.rcpfbf.com.

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