Chumash firefighters receive certificates of appreciation and a commemorative coin for their hard work. (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) honored the Chumash Fire Department for its ongoing efforts with a ceremony Oct. 27 at the Figueroa Mountain Forest Service Station in Los Olivos.

When the USFS began experiencing staffing shortages in its ranks earlier this year, the Chumash Fire Department answered the call for assistance and staffed the Figueroa Mountain Forest Service Station, 8000 Figueroa Mountain Road.

The project involved staffing, cleaning and getting the station operational. The Chumash Fire Department will have an engine crew at the station for one more week.

The ceremony highlighted the working relationship between the Chumash Fire Department and the USFS. Santa Lucia District Ranger Steve Hall, Chumash Fire Department crewmembers, and USFS officials attended.

USFS officials presented the Chumash firefighters with certificates of appreciation and a commemorative coin for their hard work over the past several months.

“Los Padres is grateful to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and their Fire Department for providing the U.S. Forest Service with staffing coverage at the Figueroa Fire Station this year,” said Steve Hall, acting Santa Lucia District ranger for the U.S. Forest Service.

“The Chumash engine crew played a critical role this summer and we look forward to strengthening this relationship in the years ahead,” Hall said.

The USFS’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

The Chumash Fire Department, in addition to providing emergency, medical and disaster services for the Santa Ynez Reservation, serves as a resource for the greater community, combatting fires and protecting people and property throughout the region.

Through an arrangement with the USFS, Chumash fire crews also respond to fires on federal land throughout the country. The 22-crewmember fire department has been called to more than 50 fires this year, including multiple returns to fires in 10 states.

“We appreciate the U.S. Forest Service reaching out to us and trusting us to be good stewards of the land,” said Chumash Fire Department Chief J.P. Zavalla. “This is historically Chumash land, and we have many sacred sites here in the Los Padres National Forest.

“The Chumash Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service have a common goal of protecting our resources here.”

The Santa Ynez Indian Reservation in Santa Barbara County and was established and officially recognized by the federal government on Dec. 27, 1901. Today, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians remains the only federally recognized Chumash tribe in the nation.

The tribe is a self-governing sovereign nation and follows the laws set forth in its tribal constitution.