Garet Blake, Firefighter and Paramedic, Montecito Fire Department
As much as my husband, Bob, and I love all our local firefighters, we have a special feeling for this particular member of the team, the reason for which will be revealed as you read down to the finish of the article.
Blake was born and raised in Moorpark, California. His single mother, an emergency room nurse, had a major influence in his life. From her, he gained not only a life-long passion to help others, but also a dedication to emergency medicine. Following high school and while attending Oxnard College, Blake began to pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter. He obtained his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification and started his emergency career in Torrance, California working for Gerber Ambulance.
After graduating from Oxnard College’s fire academy in 2005, Blake worked for Boeing Industries as an industrial firefighter. But his education wasn’t over. He continued his emergency training, graduating from Ventura College’s paramedic school in 2007, where as a volunteer, he mentored with a local Big Brother organization. He finally found his dream job when he joined the Montecito Fire Department in 2010 at the age of 25. “It’s a pleasure to come to work every day,” Blake says. “I love these guys!”
When the January 9, 2018 debris flow devastated Montecito, Blake was working on a Type 6 fire engine with Captain Jeff Villarreal; the team worked to rescue residents in the Sycamore Canyon and Olive Mill areas that were among the most affected by the disaster. Blake also spent a great deal of time in the Bonnymede and Montecito Shores areas assisting residents, which is how Bob and I come into this story.
In the wake of the terrifying debris flow, Blake came to our condominium complex and in in a comforting, John Wayne kind of way, told all the residents what was going on. At the time, the mud, which was packed high all around us, had a terrible odor. But Blake reassured us, promising that even though we were not able to get out of our complex at the moment, that we were not alone; we would be all right. He was calm, collected, and just what we all needed.
We all gathered in the middle of our compounds and hung on his every word. Four scary days later, Blake told us he thought we could get out through the back gates, so we packed up our dog, some minimal belongings, and got in our car. Blake helped steer us out on the mud. We slid from side to side, but finally managed to hit pavement and get out. We were only able to go north and so that’s what we did. We didn’t see our home again for seven weeks.
We will never forget Blake and the professionalism and kindness he showed all of us in those difficult days. As many of you know the fire and mudslides caused devastation all over the Montecito area. The Montecito Fire Foundation has been able to assist their own firefighters, but with the money donated to them they have also been able to help those still in need throughout Montecito.
Recently, they were able to cover a firefighter’s wife during her cancer treatment, and even cover all her out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance. They are happy to report that she is now cancer-free. Recently a generous Montecito resident has provided a matching donation up to $100,000 for the fund.
This once quiet foundation has turned into an organization that can make large positive changes. Their mission is to take care of their firefighters, families, and their communities. On February 1, 2020 the Montecito Fire Foundation will be hosting a fantastic event (see below) to raise money at the equally fantastic Rosewood Miramar in Montecito. There will be great food, good music, and of course each table – and to me, this is a prerequisite – will be seated with one of the handsome firefighters!
The 2nd Annual Firefighters Ball will be held Saturday, February 1 in the Rosewood Miramar Resort Ballroom at 6 pm. It will feature gourmet “grazing” from delicious buffet stations, dancing to a live band, firefighter backdrops for photographs with local crew, and more. For more information about the event, please visit montecitofirefightersfoundation.com.