Gaviota fire breaks out on Labor Day.
Mitchell Denny Jr.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department officials have concluded that a downed power line was the cause of a fire which stopped traffic for roughly 20 miles in both directions on Highway 101 near Gaviota Labor Day night. The Mariposa fire – which began just after 8 p.m., and consumed about 170 acres on both sides of the highway – was caused by an Edison power line next to San Onofre Canyon, about a quarter-mile north of Highway 101.

According to county fire spokesman Eli Iskow, investigators from CAL FIRE, the California Department of Forestry, and county fire will be looking to see if Edison should be held responsible for the fire, and will forward their investigation on to the District Attorney. Strong winds may have pushed the power line off, although there is still speculation about that. The winds did push the fire very quickly toward the ocean. Iskow said 260 firefighters helped fight the fire. The total cost is still being calculated.

Investigators also determined that a vegetation fire that burned 490 acres south of Lompoc was caused by four juveniles playing with fire. The fire began August 20. The fire was not intentional, Iskow said, and when juveniles of that age are involved, the “investigator’s focus is not on prosecution but on curbing future behavior by educating children and their parents on fire safety and the consequences of playing with fire.”


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