Editor’s note: The Carpinteria-Summerland Fire District’s long history in the valley is recorded in a booklet published in 1984 to honor the district’s 50th anniversary. Relying on information from this publication, Coastal View News is covering the district’s history in a series of “Throwback Thursday” articles. This series on Carpinteria’s early schools originally ran in CVN in 2011.
The 1950s through the 1970s saw tremendous growth in Carpinteria; new tracts of homes sprouted up, the shopping plazas at Casitas Pass Road opened for business, condominium complexes went up, and in 1965, the bustling town of Carpinteria became a city. Accordingly, the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District grew and modernized alongside the population it served.
Fire inspector and fire marshal positions were added in the early 1960s, and the number of firefighters leapt from 11 in 1959 to 23 a decade later. Two new engines occupied the Carpinteria and Summerland stations. In his 17 years as fire chief, from 1952 to 1969, Frank Floyd achieved many of the goals he had set out for the district, leaving a long legacy of district improvements.
Jack Risdon wore the chief’s hat from 1969 to 1972, and when he resigned, Claude Welch became fire chief, a position he retained until 1989.
In the 1970s the district added a new, modern station on Walnut Avenue and remodeled the Summerland station. Communication and staffing improved dramatically at this time—radio systems grew, the South Coast Dispatch System was put into place and a reserve firefighter program was launched.
Firefighting equipment and water reliability also improved. The private Carpinteria Water Company, which provided an inadequate system for supplying sufficient water and pressure to fight fires, was replaced by the Carpinteria Valley Water District in 1941. Overhaul of the water system in the 1950s and 1960s, greatly benefited the firefighting capacity of the district.
Improvements to the district, of course, did not stop fires from starting, and during this era Carpinteria Valley experienced a handful of noteworthy blazes. The “Melody Club Fire” burned four businesses on the 700 block of Linden Avenue in 1971, and the Santa Barbara Lemon Association packinghouse fire in 1978 proved to be the largest structure fire in Carpinteria history.
Carpinteria’s more rural areas didn’t escape the heat either. The Polo Fire of 1964 created a tornado that wreaked havoc on homes in the 3800 block of Foothill Road. Most tragic of all, the Romero Fire swept through the foothills behind Carpinteria in 1971, leaving three U.S. Forest Service firefighters dead in its wake.