Over the past 20 years, the threat of wildfires in Santa Barbara County has increased dramatically. The Zaca, Thomas, Tea, Jesusita, Whittier, Rey, Gap, Sherpa, Cave, Holiday, Rucker, La Brea, and Alamo Fires, among others, have burned tens of thousands of acres, destroyed hundreds of homes, and threatened thousands more.
Reducing the human and environmental costs of these fires requires public agencies, property owners, and citizen organizations to work together. Joan Hartmann has been a tremendous leader in bringing people together to improve wildfire protection in our county. As a member of the Board of Supervisors she has supported important actions such as expanding county wildland firefighting crews; initiating county-wide fuel modification planning by County Fire, including major projects to protect communities in the Lompoc-Mission Hills area; approving a modern dispatch system which will, for the first time, put all local fire agencies on the same channels; and approving a state-of-the-art Community Wildfire Protection Plan for the San Marcos Pass mountain and foothill areas.
Joan has also worked extensively with citizen organizations including local homeowners’ associations, the Bucket Brigade, and the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council to promote community wildfire preparedness. Continuing these kinds of actions requires a supervisor with the energy and intelligence to learn the issues and work closely with our professional firefighters and concerned citizens. Wildfires are not going away, but we can limit the damage they do with responsible leadership, intelligent planning, community self-help efforts, and effective use of public and private resources.