Staff Report

When a Southern California Indian tribe was looking for a truck to bolster its growing fire department, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians stepped in to fill the void, donating its own department’s used engine valued at $130,000.

Leadership members from the Cahuilla Band of Indians in Anza, Calif., visited the Chumash reservation in Santa Ynez in September to pick up their new vehicle, which the Chumash Fire Department originally purchased in 2007 for $350,000.

The Type 3 engine holds 500 gallons of water and has compiled 100,000 miles during the past 12 years of fighting fires throughout the U.S.

“We recently purchased a new Type 3 engine for our fire department, so when we learned about the Cahuilla’s need for a truck, we decided to offer them our used truck,” said Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “The truck still performs well and holds significant value on the re-sale market, but helping another tribe advance its own fire department by donating a critical vehicle felt like the right thing to do.”

The Cahuilla Fire Department has battled fires in Riverside County, including the 2018 Cranston Fire that charred more than 13,000 acres, and, along with the Chumash Fire Department, it has an agreement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to respond to fires throughout the U.S.

“A donation like this, one that is primarily focused on the preservation of life, means so much to us right now, and in the time of emergency, it will mean the world to those it saves,” said Tribal Chairman Daniel Salgado for the Cahuilla Band of Indians. “Because we are in a rural area with a large land base, we are often the first ones on the scene. This engine will greatly elevate our emergency response capabilities in our community in hopes of suppressing a fire in that narrow margin of time after ignition before it becomes an uncontrollable wildfire.”

The Chumash Fire Department was established in 2006 as a hand crew and became an engine crew in 2007 with the purchase of the Type 3 truck. The department now has six full-time employees, up to 10 seasonal employees and two engines in its fleet.

In 2017 alone, the Chumash Fire Department was ordered to more than 100 fires in 10 states, including assignments as far away as Florida. Now, its first Type 3 engine is in the hands of the Cahuilla Fire Department.

“This donation does have deep cultural meaning to us because reciprocity is one of our core values, and we believe it is why we were able to survive and still be here today as tribes,” Salgado said. “This gift will help us preserve life so we can continue carrying on these traditional values and someday return the blessing or carry it forward to the next people in need.”