Hero firefighter got her start in Ojai

020618 maeve juarez burning gas line in montecito

Photo by Maeve Juarez

A gas line near San Ysidro Creek that exploded and took out a bridge continues to burn in Montecito Jan. 9.

Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News reporter
A Montecito firefighter, who began her career in Ojai, is being hailed a hero following the rescues of hundreds of victims of the January mudslides.
Maeve Juarez, 39, served 17 years with the U.S. Forest Service in the Ojai Ranger District and for six years she was a captain at Casitas Station, Engine 51. On the night of Jan. 8, she was working as a wildland fire specialist with the Montecito Fire Department, where she's served since August 2016.
That night, Juarez and her entire department were on duty waiting for the rain and the problems it might cause, but nobody expected the disaster that followed.
Even the dangerous flooding, landslides and damaging winds from a powerful winter storm in February 2017 paled in comparison to the devastation Juarez encountered that night, and for days to come.
“This storm was nothing like that,” she said. “We knew it was a big storm, but we were not expecting that to happen,” Juarez said.
Juarez, a native of Hawaii and a married mother of three, had just spent 29 days working on the Thomas Fire when the mudslides hit early in the morning Jan. 9.
“We all ate dinner and waited for the rain. At 11 p.m. I decided to get some sleep and set my alarm for 12:30 a.m.,” she recalled.
020618 PS maeve juarez

Photo provided

Montecito Fire Department firefighter Maeve Juarez (second from left) directs rescue efforts in Montecito following deadly mudslides Jan. 9.

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