WEATHER »

Paul Wellman

Of Ashes and Airbases


At the insistence and instigation of Rep. Lois Capps, county fire chiefs met with a group of Forest Service officials last Wednesday to discuss plans to downgrade the federal air tanker service contract at the Santa Maria Airport from full service to “call when needed.” Two fire chiefs-Montecito’s Kevin Wallace and Santa Maria’s Frank Ortiz-heatedly objected that the contract downgrade will lengthen the time needed to deploy air tankers against future fires. More accepting of the change was County Fire Chief Tom Franklin, and Ted Adams, representing the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council. Forest Service firefighters-including the chief of California operations-argued that despite the changes, firefighting planes would be deployed within four hours. The current contract calls for no more than three minutes. Because of budget constraints, the Forest Service is consolidating the air bases out of which it provides firefighting support. Despite this consolidation, Forest Service officials insisted the air tankers will be no more than 34 minutes’ flying distance from any site in the forest. Capps was upset to learn in April about a contract change enacted in March; she convened the meeting at her Santa Barbara offices to allow fire chiefs to air their concerns. Last week’s meeting did little to change anyone’s mind, but future meetings have been promised to hash out operational details to ensure the smoothest transition.

To submit a comment on this article, email letters@independent.com or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email tips@independent.com.



event calendar sponsored by:

Lompoc Approves Cannabis Lounge

City location allows on-site consumption.

Police Dog Subdues Domestic Disturber

Carpinteria argument resolved with help of K9.

Fire Breaks Out near Las Cruces

[Update] Cruces Fire at 150 acres, County Fire reported. Northern edge difficult; State Route 1 "looking better."

Drugs Discovered in Woman in Jail

Brought to Santa Barbara County Jail on drug charges, she was ordered to remove them from concealment.

Ojai Rejects Private Water Company

After years of lawsuits, water customers get rid of Golden State Water Co.