Two Chumash Fire Department firefighters received special recognition at the Allan Hancock College Fire Academy graduation ceremony held on December 17.

“It speaks volumes to the level of firefighters we have working for our fire department,” said JP Zavalla, battalion chief for the Chumash Fire Department. “Not only did these individuals represent themselves during the course of the academy they also represented the Chumash Fire Department and we’re very proud of that.”

Chumash Fire Department Firefighter Richard Garcia, Engineer Jay Kennedy, Battalion Chief JP Zavalla, and Engineer Gilbert Romero.

James Kennedy, an engineer with the Chumash Fire Department, received the Outstanding Cadet award. The Outstanding Cadet honor is awarded by fellow cadets. Only one award is presented at each academy.

“It’s not a surprise that Jay received this prestigious commendation,” explained Zavalla. “With almost nine years in firefighting, Kennedy is a solid firefighter with a solid background. He’s a natural leader with the experience to back him.”

Kennedy has been with the Chumash Fire Department for three years.

Richard Garcia, a firefighter with the department and member of the Coastal Band of Chumash Indians, was honored with two awards presented by the instructors and faculty of the academy, the Merit of Achievement pin and Most Improved Cadet award. Garcia also received the Most Motivated Cadet award, an honor given to him by his fellow cadets.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by my instructors and fellow cadets,” said Garcia. “I was the oldest to go through the academy and to receive the Most Motivated award was really surprising. I didn’t set out to be an inspiration to the younger guys, but when you’re doing something you like – the reward comes with it.”

To date, the Chumash Fire Department has had four graduates of the Fire Academy and three more have been accepted to the next accredited 16-week course through Allan Hancock College.

“We’re always pleased with the cadets that enroll in our program from the Chumash Fire Department,” said Andy Densmore, fire academy coordinator. “With the capabilities of the Chumash Fire Department and the skills they obtain in the Fire Academy the graduates are a skilled and well-trained resource for the reservation.”

Established in 2005 and lead by Zavalla, the Chumash Fire Department has a full-time crew along with seasonal firefighters. The department is equipped with two engines.

The Chumash Fire Department currently has a special contract with the Los Padres National Forest Service and boasts a Cultural Rehab Crew – these crew members are specially trained to recognize and preserve Native American sites.

The Chumash Fire Department is an operation run by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.


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