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Coalition Working To Share Fire Updates With Migrant Farm Workers

Smoke rises over some houses from the Lilac Fire in Bonsall, Dec. 7, 2017.
Susan Murphy
Smoke rises over some houses from the Lilac Fire in Bonsall, Dec. 7, 2017.

A nonprofit community health organization said they're working on-the-ground to keep Spanish-speaking farm workers and their families informed about the Lilac fire in San Diego’s North County. Conventional messaging may not be reaching them.

Vista Community Clinic CEO Fernando Sañudo said migrant workers may be located in remote agricultural areas with poor reception or limited access to phones and radios. He said the nonprofit that provides healthcare to underserved communities is working with a coalition of partners to ensure peer educators, known as "promotoras," are updating residents.

“Because as the promotoras are going out there, some people are seeing the smoke, they really don’t know the extent of it ... have no idea what’s going on. All they know is they see a lot of smoke out there,” Sañudo said.


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The emergency system with Farmworkers CARE Coalition was created following the 2007 wildfires, Sañudo said.

He added there are about 20 promotoras operating in the areas near or affected by the fire, with lead contacts in Fallbrook, Oceanside and Vista. VCC is one of the community partners working to share information from the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services in multiple languages.

Vista Community Clinic Program Manager Herminia Ledesma, who oversees outreach and the migrant health program, said the coalition is sharing updates in Spanish via Facebook. But it's focusing on providing in-person communication with hard-to-reach locations, such as De Luz, which is about 10 to 15 miles away from the Lilac Fire.

“Workers and their families reside there, but it’s also the area where there’s no cellphone reception where people don't have access to either a phone — because of reception — or the radio,” Ledesma said.


However, for Hispanic communities that do have access to the internet or other devices, both Ledesma and Sañudo said they felt there isn't enough information being shared in Spanish.

"Many may be listening to a Spanish radio station, but there may not be a lot of information coming through those stations in particular," he said. "All we know is that the promotoras are reporting back, that they're finding that a lot of people are clueless about the extent of the fires."

Sañudo estimated the community clinic serves 5,000 to 6,000 farmer workers and their families.

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