The Santa Barbara City Fire Department is mourning Mike Schuit, a longtime fire engineer and artist who died last week.
Schuit was an important figure in the department and served as a truck engineer and instructor from 1977 to his retirement in 2010. He taught in the department’s academies for decades, so every current employee has taken his class for auto extrication, according to Fire Capt. Tony Pighetti.
“Talk about an icon for the city, between training that he did and the work he did with his art,” Pighetti said.
Schuit died Jan. 30 at age 60 after spending six days in the hospital.
“Our thoughts go out to the members of the Santa Barbara City Fire Department, who lost one of their own, retired engineer and artist extraordinaire Mike Schuit,” the County Fire Department posted on its Facebook page last week. “Thank you for your service, talents, laughter and making the community a safer place.”
Fire Chief Pat McElroy, confirmed in the position last week, said the department community had been visiting Schuit’s hospital room. He said it’s been truly touching to go up to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital room and see lines of current and former fire employees there to see him.
No one could forget Schuit for his work, but he also left behind a whole gallery of artwork in Station One, including portraits of his colleagues and sketches of fire trucks at city landmarks.
“After he retired, we’ve done one academy, and the guys who took over do a great job, and the things that they’re teaching are directly influenced by Mike Schuit,” Pighetti said.
The family and fire department are holding a celebration of life for Schuit this Sunday at the Carriage and Western Art Museum, 129 Castillo St.
“It will almost be more like a retirement party,” Pighetti said. “He was very private and didn’t want anything formal, so we’re not doing a big funeral. It’ll be a barbecue with firefighters and the family; we’ll just tell stories and remember Mike.”
During his long career, Schuit responded to the Sycamore Canyon Fire, Stearns Wharf, Tea Fire and Jesusita Fire, among others. Before joining the fire department, he served four years in the Air Force as a firefighter.
Schuit is survived by his son, Christopher; stepson Tim; father Joe; sisters Linda, Debra and Lori; and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.