Chumash and Forest Service fight fires

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GOLETA, Calif. – The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians are – for the first time – official partners with the U.S. Forest Service in fighting wildfires at the coastal Los Padres National Forest, service officials said June 17.

The two signed a cooperative fire response agreement that will put the Chumash’s Wildland Fire Department at the scene, rolling out to fires in joint protection areas, posting a dispatcher at the forest’s main communications center and providing their own fire station on the Chumash Reservation as a staging area.

“We are enthusiastic about this first-ever cooperative fire agreement with the Los Padres National Forest,” said Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta. “This mutually beneficial agreement not only allows for the sharing of resources between the tribe and the Los Padres National Forest, but it also strengthens a long standing relationship with the Forest Service, an agency the tribe has great respect and appreciation for.”

The agreement also highlights the strides of the Chumash Fire Department, elevating from a basic fire training program to Type-III and Type-IV engine crews in five years.

“I am pleased that we were able to work out an arrangement that will strengthen our capacity to respond to wildfire,” said Peggy Hernandez, Los Padres National Forest supervisor. “This is mutually advantageous, and it’s in the public’s interest.”