Investigators Determine Cause of Miguelito Fire

Untrimmed Trees at Celite Plant Hit Live Power Line

Vegetation fire in the San Miguelito Canyon area south of Lompoc (May 13, 2014)

Investigators with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department have determined that the Miguelito Fire was started by untrimmed trees brushing against a live power line at the Celite diatomaceous earth plant in Lompoc.

According to County Fire spokesperson Captain David Sadecki, a 12,000 volt power line feeding the plant at 2500 San Miguelito Road contacted the tree, which caused embers to drop into dry brush along the hillside.

As of 3 p.m. on Thursday, the fire — which started around 1:30 p.m. on Monday and has grown to 600-plus acres — is 95 percent contained. Sadecki said he expects full containment by Friday at 6 p.m. Crews will remain on the scene for the next 24 hours to check for hot spots, he said. All evacuation orders have been lifted — approximately 1,200 structures were threatened by the blaze — and there have been no injuries reported.

During the height of their attack, more than 500 firefighters from agencies up and down the Central Coast descend on the area. They were assisted by a small fleet of helicopters and a DC-10 air tanker. According to Sadecki, the estimated cost to fight the fire has reached $860,000.

An employee who answered the phone at the Celite plant said all media personnel had left for the day, but he said they would be available in the morning for possible comment. Last October, one of the plant’s large excavators caught fire, but it was quickly extinguished by county firefighters. No other details on the incident were immediately available.


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