Our Story

On June 27, 1990 a wildfire started near the intersection of Highway 154 and Painted Cave Road. When it was all said and done the Painted Cave Fire had burned 5,000 acres, destroyed 427 buildings and killed one civilian while she was trying to flee the wind driven fire along San Marcos Pass Road. The following year the East Bay Hills fires near Oakland, California killed 25 people, destroyed 2,843 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. These fires caused fire officials across the state to reassess their communities’ risk of wildland fire.

In 1996, Montecito Fire Chief Herb McElwee introduced several local individuals to a group in Sacramento that was creating a funding mechanism for wildfire hazard reduction and education to assist local groups statewide. The overall objective was to strengthen the bond between the fire services and the private sector through community organizations statewide. Chief McElwee felt residential community leaders had information which was important for fire authorities to hear and the government had the resources to expedite funding for dealing with the ongoing threat of wildfire in the wildland urban interface areas of Santa Barbara County. And so, in 1997, the Santa Barbara Fire Safe Council was born with the same mission it has today; to promote wildfire safety throughout Santa Barbara County through education and action.

Click HERE to view the Bylaws of the Santa Barbara Fire Safe Council, a California public benefit corporation.

In 2021, a subcommittee was established to create a Strategic Plan to provide guidance for the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council to meet it’s Mission. The Board voted unanimously to accept the plan at the January 27, 2022 meeting. The Board will review the Strategic Plan annually and use it to develop focused tasks and subcommittees to lead the effort to accomplish these tasks.

Click HERE to view the Strategic Plan and HERE for the 2022 Tasks and Subcommittees.

What We Do


The Fire Safe Council meets once a month at the Office of Emergency Management in Goleta. Every other meeting includes a presentation from an expert on local issues such as fire ecology, fire behavior, vegetation management, habitat restoration, infrastructure improvement, weather services, and emergency planning. The goal of the meetings are to provide relevant information to the local citizens and offer a platform for community members to become part of the solutions to the challenges fire poses to our wildland urban areas.


Fire Safe Councils have always been successful in receiving funding through state and local grants. Recently, the council has focused a large portion of our funds towards the creation of Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP’s). CWPPs represent the best opportunity to address the challenges of the wildland urban interface in a way that brings about comprehensive and locally supported solutions. Through grant funding and leadership, the Santa Barbara Fire Safe Council assisted with the development of the Eastern Goleta Valley/San Marcos Pass CWPP in 2018 and in 2020 received funding for the Gaviota Coast CWPP.


The Fire Safe Council offers residents an avenue to learn from professionals on how best to mitigate the threats of wildfire to their individual properties. These avenues include the “walk and talk” program where local fire officials walk neighborhoods with residents to identify vulnerabilities and recommend mitigation actions. These recommendations include “hardening” methods to the structures themselves, ways to increase individual defensible space zones, and opportunities for community level fuel breaks. The Fire Safe Council will help neighborhoods coordinate community chipping days as well as guide them through the process to become a recognized FireWise USA site.

Help Support Your Community

Support the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council. Become a member, and help us achieve our mission of promoting wildfire safety across the County through education and action.


Our Mission is to Promote Wildfire
Safety in Santa Barbara County
through Education and Action.

Our Partners