Santa Barbara Sheriff’s deputies have arrested the suspect alleged to have intentionally set the fire that shut down the northbound Highway 101 near Carpinteria on Saturday night. The fire, which was reportedly shooting flames from a manhole near the 5700 block of Via Real, forced authorities to divert traffic at Bailard Avenue.
On Monday, nearly two days after the fire, Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of someone “digging into the hillside” near a drainage culvert in Carpinteria Creek, which authorities believed was the location where the underground fire was started.
After approaching and speaking to the man, identified later as 23-year-old Santiago Garcia-Soriano of Carpinteria, deputies and the fire investigator found that Garcia-Soriano admitted to starting a fire in the culvert on Saturday just an hour before the blaze was reported.
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Garcia-Soriano was arrested and booked into the Santa Barbara County Main Jail for felony arson to property and misdemeanor cocaine possession. He is being held on $250,000 bail.
According to sources at the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire District, the fire started at the entrance of the storm drain near the creek, and spread hundreds of feet through the drain. Though authorities aren’t sure what was used to start the fire, plastic lining in the drains accelerated the spread and caused the plumes of black smoke coming from the fire. Crews used foam to extinguish the flames, and investigators are still assessing the full extent of the damage.
No neighboring residences were exposed to risk during the blaze. More information will be provided when made available.
CORRECTION: The DA’s Office states the suspect is 23 years old not 24 as originally stated by the Sheriff’s Office.