Structure fire at 530 Chapala Street (January 3, 2012)

Paul Wellman

Structure fire at 530 Chapala Street (January 3, 2012)

Investigators Determine Cause of Downtown Blaze

Say Structure Fire Accidentally Caused by Homeless Man Trying to Stay Warm

Friday, January 4, 2013
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A Santa Barbara homeless man has been arrested for accidentally starting the Thursday-afternoon structure fire at 530 Chapala Street, police said.

A witness told authorities that at 8:20 a.m. they saw Andrew Easton, 41, putting out what appeared to be a small warming fire right outside the building’s metal roll-down door. Fire investigators would later determine that “the wood trim surrounding the door ignited, causing a fire that spread up the trim and developed into a major fire to the structure,” police said. Another witness told officials they smelled smoke at approximately 9:00 a.m. but assumed it was coming from the chimney of a nearby home.

Andrew Easton
Click to enlarge photo


Andrew Easton

Officers familiar with Santa Barbara’s homeless community said Easton would often camp in the street-side alcove. On the day of the fire, he was located two blocks away on the corner of State and Ortega streets and taken into custody. Easton declined to give investigators a statement and was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail for unlawfully causing a structure fire without malice, a felony. His bail is $20,000.

The blaze was contained to the single building, a property owned by the Dal Pozzo family since the 1940s. Steve Dal Pozzo was on-scene as crews worked to douse the fire, putting it out within 30 minutes of receiving the call. There were no injuries, and the extent of the damage is unclear.

Easton had not taken advantage of the homeless emergency shelters set up throughout the county in recent weeks — an annual offering when the weather turns cold and wet. The warming centers, open 6 p.m.-6 a.m. on designated days and at specific locations, had been open December 31, 2012-January 2, 2013, and then temporarily ceased operations when the sun came out.

Since November 15, 2012, there have been more than 1,900 visits to the warming centers throughout the county, said director Maria Long. A third of the attendees used the shelters for the first time. Throughout the entire season last year, there were 2,858 visits — from November 15, 2011, to April 15, 2012 — a 65-percent increase from the year prior. This year’s season ends March 31.

Long called the fire and Easton’s arrest “disheartening. … It’s tragic for everyone, for the building owners and the homeless community.” She said there’s clearly a need for some kind of day center for people on the street to seek services beyond our “overburdened shelter systems.”

For updates on when and where emergency shelters will open, call (805) 324-2372.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

If Santa Barbara ever wishes to reduce the hordes of homeless that dwell here, they are going to have to stop attracting them with endless services like free shelter and free food. the homeless are literally and figuratively destroying the place.
Just my opinion and I'm sure that many will find it disagreeable.

GluteousMaximus (anonymous profile)
January 5, 2013 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I do disagree with your comment, and walk through the gaping hole in your logic as well, "GluteousMaximus."

Your non sequitur begins when you assert a honey-to-the-bee causation in the middle of a story of a man without shelter creating a fire to keep warm.

binky (anonymous profile)
January 5, 2013 at 10:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A man builds a fire against a multimillion dollar building that someone else owns and you are in support of that? there seems to be a gaping hole in your own logic there smartypants. this person is here in SB because they give out free food and for no other reason. wake up and it's time for your reality check (which appears to have bounced).

GluteousMaximus (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 1:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm getting sick and tired of people like "Binky" who think it's perfectly alright for homeless persons to destroy private property and harass locals and tourists and who then are supported by taxpayers money,
giving them free everything so they will stick around and keep doing it.
Enablers are what you are and while enabled these persons have no motivation to quit drinking and drugs and get a job.
AA is there when these "homeless" persons finally hit bottom and want to stop their self destruction.
Until they do hit bottom they will continue their random path of enabled alcohol and drug fueled bliss at the residents of this fair city's expense.
I condemn you "binky" for your support of such a scenario

GluteousMaximus (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 1:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't see Binky condoning the destruction of anybody's property anywhere.
It's the tourists who draw aggressive panhandlers. Stop promoting SB as a party town and you'll have less problems.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 1:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Binky is simply answering your comment, GlutMax. A recent study shows 55% of the homeless here ARE LOCAL PEOPLE. So at best your comment about those awful people -- "they are going to have to stop attracting them with endless services" is only 45% correct. Yes, it is a problem.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2013 at 7:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Besides, now they will get the money to rebuild rather than taking out a high % rated Bank loan to refurbish the dwelling.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 6:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Geez, what a backwards way of thinking.

The problem isn't that our town is friendly to homeless people, the problem is that so many other towns are UNFRIENDLY to homeless people, which is why so many choose places like here.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 3:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's more a problem of the overall environment of irresponsible fun that is constantly promoted. How many of this weekend's wine tasters will be next year's homeless hordes?And how much food isn't being grown in order to intoxicate tourists?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 4:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In addition how many of these people were rendered homeless by the fines and fees for related alcohol/drug charges small and big. Fees on top of fines mind you! The problem will never be solved as long as it's seen as a revenue stream and not an issue inflicting human beings.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2013 at 4:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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