Santa Barbara County fire officials are calling a fire of an unused building south of the City of Santa Barbara “suspicious in nature.” The fire, which ignited around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, engulfed the 1,225-square foot storage building sitting adjacent to a vacant, unoccupied home at 4470 Orcutt Road, a 55-acre property purchased by Wal-Mart last year.
Responding firefighters took just under 90 minutes to fully control the fire, which also ignited nearby vegetation. Local power lines were also damaged, but not energized at the time, according to Capt. Eli Iskow.
Iskow didn’t elaborate on why the fire was “suspicious in nature,” but said that anyone who could aid in the investigation should call (805) 686-8182. He said he couldn’t be specific about the indicators, but “more likely than not someone knows who or what started this fire.” He added that the fire is one of several suspicious fires in the area over the past several weeks, which may or may not be related.
The fire comes four days before the official start of 2008 fire season, which begins May 12 at 8 a.m. During the season, all burning permits issued for hazard reduction in high fire areas will be suspended until late fall, according to Iskow. The declaration is due to the changing weather and vegetation conditions.
Officials encourage residents and landowners to maintain their defensible space by clearing and thinning brush on their properties, and to keep in mind the time of day in which they mow or clear, as the afternoon heat can increase the chances of igniting dry brush. According to Iskow, the department has already had to respond to vegetation fires that have been caused by clearing efforts. For more information, visit the department’s website.