San Manuel tribe hosts appreciation event for Inland Empire first responders

First responders from the Inland Empire were treated to lunch at a special appreciation day Thursday following a busy and intense fire season in 2019.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians said the emergency responders not only deserve a little bit of downtime, but a big thank you as well.

"The tribe felt they're not thanked enough," said Chief Michael Smith of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Fire Department, who said this is the first such event hosted by the tribe.

"The tribal leadership initiated this event to get first responders together to thank them for all they do year-round, and in this winter fire season when we all maybe get a minute to breathe," he added.

The show of support included several rows of thank you notes written by local elementary school students.

"I mean, it's absolutely heartfelt," said Officer Ramon Duran with the California Highway Patrol. "And a great feeling to know that we're appreciated not only by the community but organizations such as this one."

However, it was a bittersweet day for the fire service, knowing that three of their own were lost 8,000 miles away in Australia fighting the devastating fires there, when a C-130 air tanker crashed, killing everyone on board.

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Firefighters say the same plane was stationed in San Bernardino last summer, fighting fire from the skies above Southern California.

"It's very tragic, especially when it hits close to home," said CalFire firefighter Daniel Perez. "To go home at night is something we always appreciate, and we always pray for those people who don't make it home."

Emergency responders from CalFire Highland, Redlands Fire, Yucaipa Fire, San Bernardino County Fire, the U.S. Forest Service, American Medical Response, San Bernardino Police and the Central and Highland stations of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department were invited.
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