Be Careful with Fire

November 26, 2008

We teach you to be careful with fire…

With a trio of once-ferocious wildfires reduced to mostly embers, authorities in Southern California shifted their attention from the blazes to their causes, and said a group of careless college kids was behind the first of them.

An anonymous caller led police to discover that a bonfire built by students—and never fully extinguished—was responsible for the massive wildfire in Santa Barbara that destroyed 210 homes, including several multi-million dollar properties.

The caller told police 10 students gathered near an abandoned home in the hills of Montecito and, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, they built a bonfire during the night and remained there until early the next morning.  The following night, "sundowner winds" took hold of the still smoldering embers, and the once harmless fire was on its way to destroying hundreds of homes.  The fire burned intensely into the weekend, consuming 1,900 acres, destroying 210 homes and injuring more than two dozen people, including a Montecito couple who were left in critical condition after being severely burned while fleeing their home.

The students, aged between 18 and 22, apparently believed they had put out the fire before leaving.  Though Brown said there was no "malicious intent," the county district attorney will review the case and determine if criminal charges are to be filed.

Be careful with fire.

Good night, gentlemen.

Note: The Montecito blaze was the first of three to erupt in Southern California that collectively damaged or destroyed about 1,000 homes in November 2008.