September 26, 2023
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Our view: Fire season has begun; region better prepared


The brush fires that scorched more than 40,000 acres in the tri-county region after the July 4 holiday are a reminder that spring growth after winter rains fuels danger in the summer.

Fire is an ever-present danger in the West, as fires raging in California, Canada and Colorado remind us. As the current round of conflagrations comes under control, we have a few thoughts:

• The region is far better prepared for fire fighting and emergency response than it was a decade ago. Tankers — even large DC-10 models — are in place, equipment is pre-positioned and response is dramatic. Over time, better gear to handle rough terrain will be needed but the improvements are vast.

• The restructuring of the Red Cross has produced a more streamlined operation that can respond quickly to demands for emergency shelter and other relief. That’s particularly important when fires are multi-regional in nature.

• The large burn areas that impacted Santa Barbara and Ventura counties over the past few years have not yet recovered. That’s a bit of a blessing that has reduced the supply of fuel for large fires that could impact heavily urbanized areas. Over time, that danger will escalate.

• Homeowners and communities are being more pro-active. Brush removal efforts, better building materials and other improvements have reduced risk and made it easier for firefighters to protect homes and other structures.

• The importance of Highway 101 as a transportation corridor was underscored again by the closing of Highway 154 through from the foothills to Lake Cachuma.

There were some big losses from these fires. Homes were destroyed in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and the loss of the Boy Scouts’ Camp Alegre will sting. But the region could have fared far worse and the fact that it didn’t is a tribute to our first responders.


In a year of big losses, the passing of longtime Ventura business owner Walter “Bud” Hartman on June 15 at age 84 didn’t get much notice.

Hartman was not as flamboyant as that other “Bud,” Channel Islands Harbor founder Martin V. “Bud” Smith, and he didn’t leave behind a real estate empire or tall buildings.

But Hartman was a classic entrepreneur of the Central Coast variety.

After attending Santa Clara University and serving in Germany in the military, he returned to Ventura where his gift for sales of electric gear led him to work for and eventually acquire Taft Electric.

He built the company from 40 to 300 employees, with a footprint that ranged from Buellton to Los Angeles.

Along the way he helped launch a number of ventures, including construction companies, a cellular firm and Ventura County National Bank, where he served on the original board of directors. He also was a founding member of the Tower Club. He raised a family and pursued his hobby of flying with a personal passion; he outlived his wife Sally by several years.

Before he died, Hartman found a way to pass his company along to his employees, forming an ESOP structure that allows Taft to continue as an independent company into the future.

Our condolences to the Hartman family and the Taft Electric owners. That’s what you might call a life well lived.