A commercial contract mower clearing vegetation in a large grass and brush field outside of the city of Santa Barbara apparently struck a rock, causing sparks that resulted in a 2.6 acre fire.
The fire, dubbed the Creek Fire, began about 1:40 p.m. Thursday in a field bordered by San Antonio Creek Road, Via Los Santos and Pennell Road, not far from Tuckers Grove County Park. A battalion chief from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department arrived to find the fire to be about one-half to three-quarters of an acre, burning in high grass and pushed by a mild breeze. Four engine companies responded from County Fire, aided by three engine companies, a patrol unit and a battalion chief from the U.S. Forest Service from Los Padres National Forest.
The first engine to arrive set up shop near the only structure, a residence on Pennell, where the fire was approaching the backyard along a line large pine trees. The fence line was already burning. While they attacked the fire in this position, other firefighters were able to surround the fire and gain containment. A water-dropping helicopter made one dump on the flames.
Firefighters were able to contain the fire in about 25 minutes, and full control was declared another hour and 20 minutes after that. There were no injuries and the only damage came to the fences. According to Capt. Eli Iskow, the contractor hadn’t taken reasonable precautions to prevent a fire. “The tractor/mower was not equipped with either a spark arrester, water fire extinguisher or a shovel, implements that can prevent a small fire, once started, from growing out of control,” Iskow said in a statement, adding that the county will pursue cost recovery for battling the fire. The fire is one of several vegetation fires the county has responded to already early on in the fire season, which officially kicked off last month.