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Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman retires

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The snapshots are legendary and powerful.

Images of dramatic airdrops above our front-country wildfires, a wall of flames jumping toward first responders sheltering behind their engine, and, miraculous rescues during the deadly 2018 Montecito mudslide disaster have impacted and fascinated people, very likely, nationwide.

(Courtesy: Mike Eliason/SB Co Fire Dept)

Mike Eliason's role as photojournalist-turned-public information officer is coming to an end.

"What I'm going to miss most about the job is the people. I'm going to miss that and missing the community."

Eliason reflected on disasters he's helped cover over a span of four decades, first as a local newspaper photographer, then, as spokesman with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

His career dates back to the Wheeler Fire in 1985

"The Paint Fire, the Jesusita Fire, the Tea Fire that just roared through the community and changed it. And then of course, the Montecito debris flow that had a profound effect on the community. You saw things that you could never unsee."

Eliason shared critical information he gleaned during emergency access most of us don't have.

"I got to see both the strategic and the tactical side of some kind of incident. I was in there with the incident commanders and I could see how much they cared."

The man recognized for his spectacular and published photographs -- including stunning local scenic shots -- was also known for his straight-forward and compassionate approach to handling disasters and emergencies.

"One spark can start an enormous fire that we don't want to have happen," Eliason said during a NewsChannel interview.

His love of working with schools and the community, teaching emergency preparedness -- these are the things Eliason said he will miss the most.

The well-known photographer said he's not going anywhere; he'll continue with his love of photography but said he will miss the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and other local agencies.

"I enjoyed spending time with them and seeing them in action and seeing them make a difference. That's what I'm going to miss most."

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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here


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