As a result of problems identified after the El Nino Storms in 1998, a Water Rescue Team was developed that has grown to both Swift Water Rescue and Ocean Rescue capabilities. Today, the Water Rescue team has over 30 qualified firefighters certified as Swift Water Rescue Technician I, trained in surf rescue, personal water craft operations and inflatable rescue boat operations. Certified members are Swift Water and Surf Rescue Specialist under the Tri-County USAR guidelines.
Water Rescue Team equipment is assigned to Fire Stations 11, 17, and 32 and includes Water Rescue 11, IRB 17, and Helicopter 308.
The team responds county wide, to a wide variety of potential and actual incidents along 118 miles of coastal shoreline and many creeks and rivers throughout the County of Santa Barbara.
The operation of the team is part of a total system that includes the coordinated efforts of surrounding agencies and jurisdictions including operational area fire departments, lifeguards, USCG, Harbor Patrol, and Search and Rescue. Additionally, all Santa Barbara County Fire Department personnel are trained and equipped for shore based water rescue.