As flames burned closer and closer to the ranch lands immediately behind Goleta, four investigators from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department methodically sifted through bits of trash and other debris at the point where the Gap Fire began Tuesday night.
Earlier that morning I received a tip from a person who wished to remain anonymous that the point of origin was the site of an informal shooting range known as the “Glass Factory” that was used in the 1960s and 70s for target practice.
Located east of the Winchester Gun Club, when fire fighters first reached the scene, they quickly located the point of origin, a sandy bench located at the base of a hill where decades ago shooters had placed old TVs, washing machines and other discarded items to use as targets.
My source indicated that a half-full cola can was found there along with several other items. Apparently, the soft drink was still cold to the touch.
Several members of the San Marcos Volunteer Fire Department were the first on scene, arriving there within 15 minutes of it being reported. As they drove up West Camino Cielo they passed an SUV with three people in it and loaded with mountain bikes. The volunteers stopped the car and asked the occupants if they had seen a fire.
Apparently, when the call came in to CHP, the reporting party mentioned that the fire was near a private ranch known as Windemere but this was confused with another location along San Marcos Pass called “Windy Gap.” More than likely, the Gap Fire received its name from this confusion in names.
The mountain bikers affirmed that the fire was, indeed, further up the road towards the Winchester Gun Club. Unfortunately, because they wanted to get to the fire as soon as they could, the volunteers did not get the car’s license number.
While the San Marcos volunteers would not confirm that the start point for the Gap Fire was the Glass Factory, when I re-visited West Camino Cielo at 7 pm last night, I could observe the team at work picking up various items and placing some of them in small paper bags. When asked, the investigators declined to comment on their work.
While the cause of the Gap Fire is clearly human, at this point there is no indication whether it was accidental or intentional. One wonders who the person or persons are who were responsible for this and what they could have been thinking.