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Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor announces his retirement after 35 years of service

MONTECITO, Calif. – Kevin Taylor, Chief of the Montecito Fire Protection District, announced Monday that he will be retiring after 35 years of service.

The chief led Montecito Fire and the community through "the worst disaster in Santa Barbara County history," the Jan. 9 mudslides in 2018, said the department.

"As incident commander for the 1/9 event, he dedicated himself to a holistic and multi-faceted response and recovery of the landscape, the community, and our first responders," wrote Christina Favuzzi, public information officer for Montecito Fire.

Entering into his fire service career in 1987, Taylor's last day will be March 31, 2023.

"Chief Taylor has dedicated his entire career to serving others," said Peter Van Duinwyk, Montecito Fire Protection District Board President. "We are so fortunate to have had his exemplary leadership over the last eight years here in Montecito. On behalf of the Board, I wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement."

Taylor first joined the Montecito Fire Department in February of 2015 as Division Chief of Operations.

"During his time in that role, he played an integral part in launching the Santa Barbara County Type 3 incident management team and worked diligently to build relationships with local partner agencies," wrote Favuzzi.

"Chief Taylor has made a lasting impact on Montecito Fire Department and our community," said Billy Wrenn, President of the Montecito Firefighters Association. "He has led us through complex incidents, including the January 9 debris flow, and navigated significant challenges over the last eight years, all with a steadfast commitment to making the best decisions for the safety of our community members, firefighters and staff."

The Board of Directors promoted Taylor to Montecito Fire Chief in June of 2019.

Favuzzi said that as Fire Chief, Taylor "championed a culture of empowerment within our fire department" and "prioritized the mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing of every member of our Fire Family by supporting the expansion of our Peer Support program and securing world-class benefits to take care of first responders throughout their careers."

“This career has been the honor of my life. What makes it even more gratifying is that I am able to step away and leave the organization and community in exceptionally capable hands. When the Board hired me to be the Fire Chief, our goals were to enhance the culture of empowerment and ensure executive development by passing along every lesson I have learned throughout the course of my career. My hope is that this has laid a strong foundation of resilience, progress and preparedness. In my 35 years, serving the community remains at the heart of why I chose this profession. Your support and gratitude have sustained me through the most difficult moments. None of my professional accomplishments would have been possible without the outstanding people who comprise the Montecito Fire Department, the incredible community we serve, and most of all, my supportive wife and son.”

Fire Chief Kevin Taylor

After Taylor announced his retirement to the Board of Directors in Oct. 2022, the Board selected current Division Chief of Operations, David Neels, as Taylor’s successor.

Favuzzi said Taylor and Neels are working closely together to ensure a smooth transition, and Neels’s promotion to Fire Chief will take effect April 1, 2023.

More into the background of Taylor's full career, Favuzzi wrote the following:

Over the course of his career, Chief Taylor has served in every rank of the fire department.

His career began as a seasonal firefighter with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. After two summers working as a seasonal firefighter, he felt passionate about becoming a firefighter/paramedic for a municipal fire department. He became an emergency medical technician and began working for San Luis Ambulance. He went on to attend paramedic school at Stanford University and completed the basic fire academy at Allan Hancock College.

In 1991, he was hired in his hometown of Paso Robles, CA as a firefighter/paramedic. During his 24 years there, he was promoted to fire captain/paramedic and served his last 12 years there as a battalion chief. He was instrumental in professionalizing the department to meet the needs of the city’s growing suburban community and served as incident commander for major incidents in Paso Robles including the 2003 San Simeon earthquake.

While with Paso Robles, Chief Taylor was a member of California Incident Management Team 9, deploying to complex incidents across the state. Locally, he was a founding member of the San Luis Obispo County Type 3 incident management team.

A lifelong learner, Chief Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration and a master’s degree in Emergency Management.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Lily Dallow

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