U.S. Forest Service And Chumash Indians Reach Fire Protection Agreement
Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians have just signed their first Cooperative Fire Protection Agreement and Annual Operating Plan.
In the plan, they will join together in the prevention, detection, and suppression of wildland fires within their joint protection areas.
"I am pleased that we were able to work out an arrangement that will strengthen our capacity to respond to wildfire," said Peggy Hernandez, Los Padres National Forest Supervisor. "This is mutually advantageous, and it's in the public's interest."
The highlights of the agreement include the following:
The tribe will provide assistance to the Los Padres National Forest with a dispatcher, who will be based at the Los Padres National Forest Communications Center.
The tribe's Wildland Fire Department (located on the Santa Ynez Reservation) will be an initial attack resource listed on the Los Padres National Forest's dispatch run card.
The tribe will be called to local wildland fires within the Los Padres National Forest response areas, along with the Vandenburg Air Force Base, Santa Barbara County Fire Department and CALFIRE, as well as other cooperating agencies.
The tribe's Wildland Fire Department is available for special assignments and rehab work on an Assistance-by-Hire basis.
The agreement makes available the opportunity for the tribe's fire engines to cover Los Padres National Forest Fire Stations and vice versa when needed.
"We are enthusiastic about this first-ever cooperative fire agreement with the Los Padres National Forest," said Vincent Armenta, Tribal Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. "This mutually beneficial agreement not only allows for the sharing of resources between the tribe and the Los Padres National Forest, but it also strengthens a long standing relationship with the Forest Service, an agency the tribe has great respect and appreciation for. The tribe's investment and commitment to this program are further solidified by the partnerships we develop."
J.P. Zavalla, the tribe's Battalion Chief, said that the tribe's Fire Department has worked with the Los Padres National Forest on cultural issues.
"We have been called upon since our tribal fire department was established in 2004, as cultural specialists and to work with archeologists, helping to protect cultural sites and provide rehab assistance at various locations," said Zavalla.
The tribe's wildland fire department started as a basic fire training program in 2004 and developed into a department which now has both Type-III and Type-IV engine crews.
Prior to the last 5 years of program development, the tribe conducted annual fuels management through a Bureau of Indian Affairs Community Fire Prevention Program.
Los Padres National Forest encompasses approximately 1.75 million acres of central California's scenic Coast and Transverse Ranges. The forest stretches across almost 220 miles from the north to the south and consists of two separate land divisions. The northern division is within Monterey County and northern San Luis Obispo County and includes the Big Sur Coast and scenic interior areas. The "main division" of the forest includes lands within San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Kern Counties, to the North west of Santa Clarita.
Map courtesy of Los Padres National Forest.