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Veteran Volunteers Help San Diego County Fire Victims

Team Rubicon veterans cleanup after Alpine Fire, July 27, 2018.

Photo by Steve Walsh

Above: Team Rubicon veterans cleanup after Alpine Fire, July 27, 2018.

The veteran-led group Team Rubicon was in San Diego this week to help homeowners with the aftermath of the Alpine Fire. Founded in 2010 to respond to the earthquake in Haiti, the team responds to a range of disasters, like tornadoes in the Midwest, volcanoes in Hawaii and wildfires in California.

One of the Alpine residents getting help was Cinda Jauregui, a San Diego Police Department retiree. She said she had to help her husband into their motor home to escape the July 6 fire.

“It was just a big wall of fire. I just drove the motorhome through it and hoped for the best," Jauregui said.

She was coping with the burned out shell of the home they owned for 25 years when she heard about Team Rubicon.

“I was kind of in a daze, but I got some good information and I met with these guys there. They got me on their schedule. It was like two days later they’re calling asking, 'When do you want us in there?'” she said.

Jauregui’s husband is a veteran and a retired police officer. She asked team members to find the ring he gave her on their 10th wedding anniversary.

“I was working that day and I said I’m going to find that for her," said Team Rubicon's David Lehman, a Navy veteran and a paramedic from Los Angeles. "And I spent all day in that spot. Probably a 10 foot by 10-foot area. By hand, sifting through all this stuff. Right toward the end of the day. I pulled this ring out.”

Lehman said he left the Navy decades ago, but he never dealt with his unresolved PTSD until he joined Team Rubicon.

“Team Rubicon literally saved my life, by joining it. Because a lot of us have PTSD issues and getting around other vets that have it. It’s better than talking to any therapist you can find. It really is," Lehman said. "They know. They’ve been through it so they know. We don’t even have to talk. And we get it. We get each other.”

Team Rubicon is expected to clear away the rubble from seven homes before leaving San Diego Saturday. The organization estimates they used more 73,000 volunteers in 2017. The vast majority are veterans with a mix of first responders and civilians.


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Photo of Steve Walsh

Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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