Tuesday, May 6, 2008

County Fire receives big donation


The Santa Barbara County Fire Department received one of the biggest private donations in its history yesterday: a $340,000 brush truck that will complement the department’s current fleet of 12.
County Fire Capt. Eli Iskow said the truck, which pumps 500 gallons of water per minute, is all-wheel drive and will be a valuable tool for fighting wildland fires.
“It’s a great donation,” he said. “Nothing like this has ever been donated to the County Fire Department before.”

After last summer’s Zaca Fire, Betty Stephens, a longtime supporter of local firefighters, said she and her friend, Sandi Nicholson, wanted to do something to chip in.
Stephens said they asked fire officials what was needed and a brush truck was near the top of the list.
“[Brush trucks] are the workhorses of the fleet,” she said. “We needed one and so we decided we could see if we could buy one.”
Though the gift is impressive in terms of its size, what’s more astounding is how quickly Stephens and Nicholson managed to pool the funds.
Stephens said she and Nicholson sent out letters to more than a hundred friends and associates requesting donations. Within one month, the total sum was raised and the truck was ordered.
The two women formed a group called The Bucket Brigade and joined forces with Direct Relief International, which accepted the checks and acted as the nonprofit. Stephens said Direct Relief International pitched in some funding, which she did not ask for.
“We did not ask anyone for money we did not personally know,” she said.
Iskow said the truck will not be ready until next summer because the company that builds the chassis is also is a military contractor and has a backlog of work.
In a county where much of the land is remote and prone to wildfires, Iskow said the trucks are an indispensable tool.
“They go anywhere in our back country and that’s why they’re so valuable for brush fires,” he said.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said in an era of fiscal crisis for government at every level, donations like this are extremely rare and important.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” he said. “It’s a great contribution and it’s a great example of our community.”

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