Two ranch workers are being criminally prosecuted for starting the Zaca Fire while trying to fix a pipe leading to a watering trough. Jose Jesus Cabrera, 38, of Santa Ynez, and Santiago Iniguez Cervantes, 46, of Santa Maria were charged on August 31 with four felony counts of “recklessly causing a fire”-one count each for three of the many workers injured fighting the blaze, plus one for the burned forest.
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As of Tuesday evening, after tens of thousands of acres in the Santa Barbara backcountry had burned, firefighting forces appeared to have the Zaca Fire under control with more than 60 percent of the inferno contained and August 3 earmarked as the likely full containment date. The mini-city erected in recent weeks at the Live Oak campground to provide home base and command central to the approximately 800 personnel fighting the blaze was being slowly taken down even as plumes of smoke continued to rise above the distant ridgeline.
What started as an auspicious Independence Day did not end that way, at least not for several area ranch hands repairing a water pipe in the Santa Ynez Valley. Sparks from a metal grinder ignited nearby brush, and the flames spread before the crew could stomp them out. The location was Bell Canyon-not too far from Zaca Lake and about as unfortunate a location for a fire to start as one could find.