Fire Chief Hartwig Departing For Santa Barbara County

San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig, whose nearly eight-year tenure was marked by both increasing controversy in its final stages as well as his own tremendous personal loss, will leave his position in two weeks to become fire chief in Santa Barbara County.
Hartwig, who had been the deputy chief of the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department, was brought in to serve as the chief of the San Bernardino County Fire Division, known in county parlance as the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District, in April 2011. He was not entirely new to the organization, having started with the San Bernardino County Fire Department as an extra-help firefighter in 1992 and working his way to the rank of captain, serving as the department’s emergency medical services supervisor and training officer.
Hartwig was given the county fire chief’s assignment largely on the strength of his having cultivated an expertise in emergency medical services, as the lion’s share of citizen calls for assistance to fire departments both nationally, statewide and regionally are for perceived medical emergencies rather than fires.
Hartwig has a masters degree in emergency services administration, bachelor degrees in zoology and emergency medical care, and associate degrees in paramedic studies and fire administration.
The scope and tenor of fire protection service in San Bernardino County began a sharp turn in 2015 when the City of San Bernardino, facing financial challenges, at the behest of its city council closed out its 137-year-old municipal fire department and annexed the entirety of the city limits into a county fire service zone. Accompanying this move was the imposition of a $147 per year assessment on all parcels in the city to defray a significant portion of the fire division’s cost of providing service. This was decried by opponents of the move as saddling residents with an unwanted tax that was not approved by those bearing it. Despite that controversy, similar shutdowns of local or municipal fire departments occurred in Twentynine Palms, Needles and Upland over the next two years, generating even further controversy. In 2018, the county annexed all of its unincorporated areas into a county fire service zone imposing on property owners in those areas, as was the case in San Bernardino, Twentynine Palms, Needles, Upland and San Antonio Heights before them, an annual assessment in the $150 range.
Critics of the change noted that for more than a century the provision of fire protection by local and municipal fire departments was part of basic municipal or government service paid for by traditional property taxes and sales taxes. Hartwig raised the ire of tens of thousands of county residents when he suggested that the “modern trend” was toward augmenting historic modes of funding for government function with another layer of “special” tax to enhance fire protection service.
In recent years, Hartwig worked closely with the California Fire Chiefs Association to help develop a response to the state’s proposed regulations diluting local control of emergency medical services. He served as president of the California Fire Chiefs Association Emergency Medical Services Section.
In January 2017, Hartwig and his wife Holly suffered the heartbreak of their 20-year-old son, Dawson, dying by drowning in Lake Arrowhead near the Yacht Club, where he was found by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department divers in about 30 feet of water.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on January 15 announced the hiring of Hartwig as Santa Barbara County’s fire chief to succeed former Fire Chief Eric Peterson and his interim replacement, Mike Dyer.
With regard to his departure from San Bernardino County, Hartwig said, “Building a team of leaders and succession has been a high priority for me. We have a talented group of leaders at County Fire that will move forward as the board decides how to select my replacement.”

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