Chief Widling to Retire
Also happening at MFPD, Montecito Fire Division Chief of Operations, Alan Widling, is set to retire on December 30. The #2 in command at MFPD, Chief Widling has worked the last 31 years of his life in the service of others.
Widling was hired as a full-time firefighter by the Montecito Fire Department in September of 1989, after beginning as a private ambulance paramedic and Reserve Firefighter for the Santa Maria City Fire Department. Widling left Montecito in 1991 to spend the next 23 years rising through the ranks in the Santa Maria City Fire Department to become the Operations Battalion Chief in 2011. In 2015 the opportunity presented itself for him to return to the Montecito Fire Department as a Shift Battalion Chief, which he took advantage of and in July of 2019 he was promoted to the Division Chief, overseeing Operations of the Department.
Alan has been an Instructor for Allan Hancock College Fire Academy since the late 1990s and achieved the level of Confined Space Rescue Technician – Senior Instructor with State Fire Training in 2008. He participated in the Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) program and currently serves as the Chairperson for Santa Barbara County US&R Regional Task Force (RTF-12) and as Deputy Chairperson for the California Statewide US&R RTF Working Group, which is made up of all 12 of the State’s RTFs.
Chief Widling responded to many significant incidents over the course of his career, most notably the Los Angeles Civil Unrest in 1992, Northridge earthquake in 1994, La Conchita landslide in 2005, and in 2013 he was the Operations Section Chief on the Town Center Hotel Fire in Santa Maria. During his tenure in Montecito, in 2015 he was the Incident Commander of the Loureyro Fire, which involved a civilian fatality. In 2017 he led a Strike Team of five engines through the Thomas Fire, and on January 9 of 2018, he was the Rescue Group Supervisor for what would become the devastating and tragic 1/9 Debris Flow Incident.
“For my entire career I have been passionate about serving others and attempting to master the craft of firefighting through study, training, and experience,” Chief Widling said. “My achievements were only possible through the support of my family, which sacrificed so much for me to achieve my goals. I will now have time to invest in paying them back for all of the birthdays, events, and other special moments in life that I missed pursuing my dream.” Chief Widling tells us he also intends on helping his grandson with special needs, age 16, with virtual learning, as well as helping him to be more mobile and active.
Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor says that “Chief Widling has been an incredible partner the past several years.” He went on to say, “His commitment to our community and organization were truly representative of his service-over-self mentality.”
David Neels has been promoted to the Division Chief – Operations position effective January 1, 2021.