Sunday, April 22 , 2018, 11:25 am | Fair 67º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Santa Barbara Fire, Police Officials Talk Drought, Response Calls and Staffing Numbers

Fire Chief Pat McElroy expects SBFD to remain on high alert for wildfires while Police Chief Lori Luhnow reports on 8 new officers scheduled to graduate from academy

New Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, second from left, outlines department staffing and Old Spanish Days law enforcement needs during the recent Fire & Police Commission meeting.
New Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, second from left, outlines department staffing and Old Spanish Days law enforcement needs during the recent Fire & Police Commission meeting.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Fire Department will remain on high alert as a significant wildland fire potential is forecast through the rest of 2016, Fire Chief Pat McElroy told the Fire & Police Commission at its monthly meeting Thursday.

In his remarks, McElroy addressed the drought, dying vegetation and an aggressive bark beetle infestation that has destroyed more than 40 million trees in California in the last five years.

“It’s going to be a generational problem,” he said. “It’s going to alter the landscape and this is going to be a fire problem. It’s not something that can just be fixed right away. It will take years.”

Southern California continues to have a high risk of fire as the state’s drought stretches into its fifth year, McElroy said.

Fire season in the West is at its peak in the summer season of July and August. Long-term drought conditions are expected to remain in place, and autumn weather conditions bring an increase in offshore winds that often spark fire activity, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

“If there isn’t significant rain, we will stay in high fire through the end of the year,” McElroy said. “There’s a lot of drought stress in trees.”

He said dead trees falling pose a safety risk to campers and hikers in Los Padres National Forest and around Santa Barbara County. Until the danger is contained by cutting down the hazardous trees, some areas remain closed.

McElroy also gave an update on SBFD incidents, with a total of 801 responses between June 23 and July 27.

Among those incidents were 15 fires, 488 medical and rescue calls, 32 hazardous conditions and 46 false alarms, he said.

“Our medical and rescue incidents remain our highest priority,” he said.

New Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow gave the commission an update on SBPD staffing, noting the current number includes 212 total employees, with 143 sworn police officers and 69 civilian personnel.

Eight additional officers are completing their 24-week academy training in Ventura to prepare themselves for law enforcement, she said. The group is to graduate Oct. 7.

Luhnow gave an overview of recent police dispatch calls with June 2016 logging 4,002 of them, and a five-year average of 3,209 calls.

“Our call volume for patrol in 2016 remains at a historic level,” she said. “The good thing is we are managing the calls. The rates of response are still where it was in past years.”

With Old Spanish Days Fiesta approaching, Aug. 3-7, and events planned throughout the weekend, SBPD will work with partnering allies to monitor the large expected crowds.

“We have a busy week that is requiring our entire staff to be assigned to manage the event,” Luhnow said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >