It’s Personal: Hometown Girl Now Charged with Informing Area About Fire Safety
As spring nears an end, many of us look forward to warmer weather, backyard barbeques, lazy beach days, and the innate relaxation of the summer season. Yet, the transition to summer comes with a layer of uneasy anticipation.
After studying fuel conditions and weather predictions, the local fire jurisdictions of Santa Barbara County have declared High Fire Season in our region will begin May 3.
The 2021 fire season will start two weeks earlier than in 2020. By this time last year, Montecito had received more than 17 inches of rain, according to the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District. That’s just shy of average for our area.
So far in 2021, our community has received about 10 inches of rain making this one of the driest rainfall years in the last decade.
My name is Christina Favuzzi, and fire season is personal for me. I recently joined Montecito Fire as the department’s first public information officer. I am incredibly honored to serve as a liaison to our media partners, participate in education programs, and provide crucial information to our community.
The role of public information officer was created as the result of the community’s request for better access to educational resources on emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. Additionally, the crises of the Thomas Fire and Debris Flow highlighted the need for a dedicated information professional.
I’m stepping into this role with a deep connection to the South Coast, the fire service, and communicating with community members.
I was born and raised in Santa Barbara. As I reflect on my memories of growing up on the South Coast, my childhood is punctuated by wildfires: Zaca, Gap, Tea, Jesusita, and White, to name a few.
The eerie orange glow of the sky at dusk as a wildfire burns in the front county, the feeling of warm sundowners, peppery ash falling on my skin, emergency alerts blaring across the TV screen, donning an N-95 mask to avoid breathing in smoke — these memories are hallmarks of a Santa Barbara County summer.
The impact of fire season manifested in a new way in my adult life. While in college at Cal Poly studying broadcast journalism, I interned at various news outlets and quickly understood that drought conditions would essentially be a perennial news story across California.
In one weekend as a rookie TV news reporter, my story for Saturday was about installing greywater systems in your home, and on Sunday I was driving dirt roads at Lake Nacimiento covering a new wildfire.
Early on in my journalism career, I was compelled to learn as much as possible about the fire service, emergency management, the status of our state water supply, and how to prepare people for this dangerous reality of life in our beautiful Golden State.
Summer after summer, I found myself reporting on wildfires along the South Coast: Solimar, Sherpa, Whittier, and of course, the Thomas Fire. Those assignments were when I felt my role as a journalist mattered most. People’s lives were at stake. On live TV, I had the opportunity to talk to my hometown and relay the message of incident commanders and firefighters on the line.
Also, on the line at many of those fires was my now-husband, a Paso Robles City firefighter. We’ve been through five fire seasons together. A week into life as newlyweds, he was assigned to a fire up north for nearly a month. It’s a familiar routine for us. Yet, it doesn’t make it any easier not to miss him and worry.
I’ve been on the job with Montecito Fire for less than a month and I’m on a mission to learn as much as possible before our inevitable first fire of the season. What has stood out to me most thus far is not only the department’s commitment to prepare our community for fire season, but the motivation of residents to join us in aggressive and effective prevention efforts.
Once a month, I’ll be sharing stories about your Montecito Fire Department and what we are doing to protect, prepare, and care for our community. On behalf of Montecito Fire, I want to thank the Montecito Journal for giving us this space to talk with our community. I welcome your ideas, questions, and suggestions to guide the content of this column and keep you informed.
I may have a new job title, but I will always have the heart of a journalist, storyteller, and community advocate. For me, it’s personal.