Chumash Fire Department honored by tribal leadership and U.S. Forest Service
At the top of Figueroa Mountain in Santa Barbara County sits the Chumash Fire Department’s service station. The department is made up of 15 firefighters from different bands of the Chumash Nation, and was established to train and prepare firefighters to work with other departments and agencies.
Last week, the department was honored by tribal leadership and the Forest Service for their work during fire season.
The Forest Service said the department played a critical role this summer helping other stations both locally and around the country fight fires. The agency also praised the Chumash station for their work in wildfire prevention and training.
Quntan Garcia is the Fire Captain for the department, and a member of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation. Garcia said the department’s main goals are to take care of the land, honor their elders and preserve their culture.
“Your passion is in your heart, and it's what you do, and it's what you want to leave behind, and it's something that some of the elders never thought they would have ever seen in their lifetime,” Garcia said.
He said they wear patches on their uniform calling them ‘caretakers of the land.’
“It says ‘’aqilikwu’n a shup’ and that's, ‘caretakers of the land’ and so that is what we do. We care-take the resources, the land, the animals and everything that comes in and ties with the word cultural resources,” Garcia said.
Garcia said cultural resources can range from the smallest animal to the stars in the sky.
Their department has been around since 2006 as an all-risk fire department, meaning they work on wildland, structure and vehicle fires. Since the opening of the service station, they have trained about 40 firefighters a year for other departments.
Steve Hall is a District Ranger for Los Padres National Forest. He said the forest service recognizes this particular department because of all the training and clean-up they have done for the Figueroa Mountain Station.
“They really went above and beyond. They took pride in this station itself and cleaned up a lot of things and have kept it running,” Hall said.
Hall said the last official day of their fire season is tomorrow.
Summer is over but according to drought.gov, 70% of Santa Barbara County is still in an extreme drought, meaning the fire-season can last year-round.