A Message from the Montecito Fire Chief Reflecting on 2022

By Kevin Taylor   |   February 21, 2023
In 2022, Montecito Fire visited every school in Montecito to teach children about fire safety

On behalf of the Montecito Fire Protection District, it is a pleasure to share our 2022 Annual Report with our community. Over the past year, our organization experienced meaningful growth, identified opportunities for improvement, and realized significant accomplishments. 

A noteworthy change in 2022 was the full return to engaging with our community in-person after the pandemic. In 2022, we prioritized revitalizing our public education and outreach programs by visiting every school in Montecito to teach children about fire safety, hosting an in-person Wildfire Preparedness Community meeting, and resuming one of our favorite traditions – our Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast. The past year provided us with countless opportunities to be together with you again, from serving lunch to Montecito Beautification Day volunteers to decorating the Hathaway Tree during the holiday season. We were reminded daily of how fortunate we are to have the responsibility and privilege of being your fire department. 

Behind the scenes, your fire department has been busy developing plans to best serve you. In March, we convened a strategic planning committee representing all areas and levels of Montecito Fire to review community input and develop goals to carry the department through the next five years. The committee’s dedication to having reflective, difficult, and nuanced conversations about our organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to improve resulted in refined mission, vision, and values statements. Our community is the driving motivation for all of our five-year goals for the department. We look forward to achieving those goals for you and have already made significant progress.

In July, our forward-looking board of directors approved the results of a comprehensive, scientific analysis of Montecito’s unique evacuation challenges. The evacuation study by Fehr & Peers took hundreds of hours over 10 months and proves what we have known to be anecdotally true. Our task now is to carefully consider the study’s findings, as we evaluate our evacuation procedures and implement changes to evacuate our community most efficiently and safely in the event of a wind-driven wildfire. Look for substantial updates to our evacuation processes in 2023 and beyond.

The Neighborhood Chipping Program was expanded this past year to additional neighborhoods
Through natural emergencies and unexpected occurrences, Montecito Fire is here to help

Your Fire Prevention Bureau built upon our holistic approach to fire preparedness and prevention in 2022. The bureau expanded our popular Neighborhood Chipping Program to additional neighborhoods and retrofitted more homes in Montecito with ember-resistant vents through our Vent Retrofit Program. Our Wildland Fire Specialists worked with partnering fire agencies to add new wildfire detection cameras across the South Coast that are capable of alerting firefighters of new fire starts by using artificial intelligence. This multi-faceted approach to wildland fire prevention bolsters Montecito as a wildfire-resilient community.

Montecito firefighters responded to dozens of incidents across the West during the 2022 fire season. Each assignment provided didactic challenges and valuable experience that our personnel now bring back to Montecito to better respond to emergencies at home and ensure your safety.

The faces of Montecito Fire are changing as we grow and evolve to best serve you. In May, three experienced firefighters joined the organization, bringing our daily staffing to optimal levels for emergency service. We also celebrated the outstanding careers of three senior members who retired in December. 

In Montecito, the winter months bring a perennial concern for debris flow. Five years have now passed since the catastrophic 1/9 Debris Flow. Early winter storms thus far in 2023 have already caused significant impacts across the community, due to extreme saturation and our unique topography. The most recent storm, which eerily coincided with the 1/9 anniversary, did not cause nearly the same level of devastation that occurred in 2018, but the storm’s potential and our risk for debris flow impacts warranted a full evacuation of the community. Thanks to the watershed’s recovery, outstanding improvements to our flood control system, and our community’s attentiveness to disaster preparedness, we did not suffer another tragedy. 

Through the pages of this report, we hope you will learn more about your fire department, our strong financial picture as a community-established independent fire district, and the many ways we carry out our mission of providing you with exceptional service. We are thankful for our independent, elected board of directors’ guidance and prioritization of funds to empower your fire department to offer excellent emergency response and fire prevention services. 

It is our greatest honor, duty, and privilege to serve this community. We promise to be steadfast in our commitment to you in 2023 and deeply appreciate your enduring support.  

Kevin Taylor, fire chief

Read the 2022 Annual Report Here!


You might also be interested in...