A stack of burlap bags is on the ground next to a pile of sand and shovels.
Burlap is reported to be a more environmentally friendly material than plastic for making sandbags. Credit: Courtesy photo

The National Weather Service – Los Angeles/Oxnard is predicting a series of storms this week that are expected produce several inches of rain and potential flooding impacts across the South Coast.

Montecito Fire asks community members to prepare their properties for the wet weather and plan accordingly before the rain arrives.

Montecito Fire has established a sandbag filling station at Lower Manning Park, and, ahead of the 2023-24 rain season, it has transitioned from providing plastic bags to burlap bags at the sandbag station.

The environmentally conscious change is made possible through a partnership between the Montecito Fire Department’s Board of Directors and local nonprofit organization Heal the Ocean.

As part of standard operating procedures, Montecito Fire provides a sandbag filling station ahead of rain events at Lower Manning Park to assist community members with preparing their properties for potential flooding impacts.

However, the use of plastic bags for filling sandbags poses hazards to the environment, the department said.

Following the 2022-23 rain season, the Montecito Fire Protection District Board of Directors asked that future activations of the sandbag filling station be supplied with burlap bags and to discontinue use of plastic bags once their stock is exhausted.

The change from plastic to burlap will cost the Fire District about $1 more per bag. Heal the Ocean offered to reimburse the Fire District for the first 3,000 burlap bags as part of the its continuing efforts to reduce pollution along the Santa Barbara County coastline.

“As the community’s fire department, our mission to protect life, property and the environment, so while it may seem like a small change, the switch from plastic to burlap is very much in alignment with our commitment to our community,” said Fire Chief David Neels.

“We’re grateful to our Board of Directors for initiating this change and to Heal the Ocean for kindly helping to offset the cost with this initial purchase,” he said.

Going forward, Montecito Fire Protection District will fund the purchase of burlap bags as a permanent commitment to being environmentally responsible.

As part of storm preparation, register to receive emergency alerts at ReadySBC.org.