Chris Mailes

Chris Mailes

Santa Barbara City Administrator Paul Casey announced Tuesday that interim fire chief Chris Mailes has been chosen to take the job permanently, after a “very competitive search” with 37 applicants from around the country. 

Mailes has been acting fire chief since November, after former chief Eric Nickel retired. 

“I am humbled, I am honored, I am grateful,” Mailes said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “Throughout the process I was able to show my passion for wanting this position.”

Mailes told the council “you are looking at a local kid,” who attended Washington and Monroe elementary schools, La Cumbre Junior High, Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara City College and then UCSB.

He has been with the Santa Barbara City Fire Department for 28 years, and worked as a firefighter, engineer, and battalion chief in charge of training and emergency medical services before being named as acting chief last year. 

He said Santa Barbara has challenges, despite the perception that it is a sleepy city of 90,000 people.

“With a freeway, with a railroad, with a harbor, with an airport, and with mountains that stretch down to the sea, in what we call the wildland urban interface,” Mailes said. “My job, in the next few years is to make sure our community is well-protected, to make sure our firefighters are ready, they are ready with great equipment.”

Mailes said that the city has an incredibly dedicated group of women and men in the city. 

“I have been able to witness it for 28 years,” Mailes said. “They epitomize professionalism in the fire service.”

The Santa Barbara City Council met in closed session Tuesday to talk about the appointment, and voted unanimously to confirm the choice, Casey said. 

Casey said he has done an outstanding job as acting chief and “rose to the top” of the applicant pool.

Mailes noted during Tuesday’s council meeting that his mother is a 70-year resident of Santa Barbara and that he thinks of her while doing his job.

“She’s kind of my barometer,” Mailes said. “She’s kind of who I think about when I think about caring for the community.”

The councilmembers offered virtual applause after Mailes’ comments on Tuesday. 

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