By Brooke Holland
Noozhawk Staff Writer
Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson will retire at the end of October after more than 30 years with the department.
Peterson had been spreading the news of his plans for a few months, but no formal announcement was made until Friday, Aug. 31.
Before he was appointed the county’s fire chief in 2015, Peterson climbed the ranks of the department as firefighter, engineer, captain, training battalion chief, operations battalion chief, fire marshal and deputy fire chief, according to a county statement. He also served as union president.
County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said Peterson “demonstrated leadership in the most trying of times, passion for doing what he believes is right, and, above all else, care for our residents and firefighters.”
Peterson has been with County Fire for 32 years, making him a veteran of the Painted Cave, Zaca, Tea, Jesusita, Gap, Sherpa, Alamo, Rey, Whittier, Thomas and Holiday fires, the county noted.
Other major incidents during his tenure include the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill and Jan. 9 Montecito debris flow.
“I’ve appreciated Chief Peterson’s ability to foster strong relationships with our other fire agencies at the local, state and federal levels, which has been crucial in preparing for and responding to disasters in our area,” First District Supervisor Das Williams said in a statement. “His skill, experience and leadership will be greatly missed.”
Peterson is a Santa Barbara resident, and he and his wife, Kit, have 8-year-old twins.
“I have had the pleasure of working with a great team of firefighters and support staff at the department, the support of wonderful operational area partners and support from the Board of Supervisors and county executive office,” Peterson said in a statement. “It is hard to ask for anything better.”
The Board of Supervisors will name an interim fire chief before Peterson’s departure. A comprehensive recruitment for a permanent replacement will start in September, said Dennis Bozanich, deputy county executive officer.
Late in August at a Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Peterson and Sheriff Bill Brown argued for their visions of the combined dispatch center in the future. Peterson and other fire agencies want a separate facility from the law enforcement dispatchers, while Brown wants to continue having a consolidated dispatch center.
Brown also referred to Peterson’s impending retirement at the meeting, arguing that the county should delay decisions on dispatch center changes until the next fire chief can weigh in.