Santa Barbara’s city and county firefighters are well funded as far as fire services go, but some of the advanced rescue and firefighting capabilities available to them – and to those of us they protect – require more money. A lot more money. On Friday evening, the Santa Barbara Firefighters’ Alliance (SBFA) held its annual fundraiser – the Fireball Cocktail Party. Dressed in crisp blue and black uniforms, city and county firefighters gathered at the Coral Casino in Montecito to celebrate another year of jobs well done, as well as raise about $130,000 for items such as water rescue gear and night vision goggles used by helicopter pilots during wildland fires.
Guests at the well-attended event enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as well as a “surprise” rescue. Everyone seemed already to know what was going to happen to the 30-foot sailboat moored about 100 meters away from the Coral Casino’s oceanfront patio. As revelers watched, its deck burst into flames, and two fire department jet skis, led by Thaddeus King, raced out to rescue some fire personnel – and The Independent‘s Ray Ford – who were staged on the vessel for the drill. Once the boat’s passengers were taken care of, the Harbor Patrol’s fire boat, crewed by Captain Steve McCullough and Officer Wendy Cummings, raced out to douse the flames. Unfortunately, the boat ended up like one of those trick birthday cake candles that never go out, but they were able to extinguish the fire after a few passes with the water cannon.
Money was raised at an auction after the show, and those who weren’t too full of mini hamburgers and sushi took to the dance floor for a bit of rug cutting. Not to miss out on a fun event such as this one were Goleta City Councilmember Michael Bennett – himself a former firefighter – Santa Barbara city councilmembers Helene Schneider and Das Williams, and KEYT-3 news anchor John Palminteri. Many of the county firefighters at the party sported shaved heads in honor of a comrade who just finished chemotherapy. Perhaps the oldest guest – in dog years at any rate – was Duke, a 13-year-old chocolate Lab who has served actively as a rescue dog in Santa Barbara. He’s retired now, but still makes official appearances from time to time.