Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Ynez Chumash Band of Indians announced a monumental cooperative fire protection agreement and annual operating plan on Wednesday, June 17. The agreement, which is the first of its kind, merges the two groups to prevent, detect, and suppress wildfires in their respective areas. The tribe’s fire department has been developing since its establishment in 2004 as a basic fire training program.
According to Anthony Escobar, fire management officer for the Los Padres National Forest, although Los Padres has utilized the tribe’s fire services in the past, such an agreement allows for a quicker response in case of an emergency. The tribe’s Wildland Fire Department will now be listed as an initial attack resource on Los Padres National Forest’s dispatch run card. Essentially, the Forest Service can now utilize tribe personnel and equipment without submitting a formal request - a major time-saving step.
The agreement enables the tribe’s fire department to assist with area wildfires not only within the Los Padres National Forest response areas but also those of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, and CalFire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, in addition to other cooperating agencies. “In addition to local attack abilities, they now really have the ability to help out the county,” Escobar said. “If Ventura or L.A. finds themselves in a situation where they need the 527 engines we had in Santa Barbara for the Jesusita Fire, this mechanism allows us to put a strike team together, using our engines and theirs, and help them like they helped us.”
Santa Barbara’s Fire Chief Andy DiMizio echoed similar sentiments. “It’s a great thing that they signed the agreement,” Dimizio said. “They’re really jumping into the game with both feet and doing it the right way. It’s always good to know we have more help when we need it.”