16-year-old charged with arson in July wildfire near Goleta

16-year-old charged with arson in July wildfire near Goleta

18 November 2008

published by www.latimes.com

California, USA — The youth, already in custody on unrelated charges, is arrested. The blaze burned 9,544 acres, destroyed four outbuildings and cost $20 million to fight.

Officials announced the arrest of a 16-year-old boy on arson charges Monday in relation to a Santa Barbara County fire that destroyed 9,544 acres and four outbuildings near Goleta in July.

The boy, charged late Monday afternoon, was already in custody on unrelated charges in the county’s juvenile detention facility in Santa Maria, said Kathy Good, a spokeswoman for the Los Padres National Forest.

A five-month investigation that involved tips from named and unnamed sources led to the arrest, said Capt. Eli Iskow, of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. He said investigators would not release details until later.

The Gap fire, which burned for 28 days, began in the Lizard Mouth area of Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara County and cost more than $20 million to fight, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Good said work was still underway to restore a watershed affected by the fire.

“Arson is a crime that is very, very difficult to follow up because obviously there are technical issues using burn material as evidence, finding evidence, the ignition source, and then tracking it back to the person,” Iskow said.

“We want to encourage people to continue months, even years later, to continue turning information in if they think they have something pertinent. Months or years later, sometimes it takes that long to get enough evidence together and make it stick.”

News of the arrest came as firefighters battled the Tea fire in Montecito for the fifth day Monday.

The blaze, which was 95% contained as of 6 a.m. Monday, had burned 1,940 acres, destroyed 210 homes and damaged nine homes.

The fire also had injured 25 people, including two civilians who were in serious condition at the UC Irvine Regional Burn Center in Orange. Containment was expected Monday night, Iskow said.

The fire started at 5:45 p.m. Thursday in the Tea Garden area of Mountain Drive and Cold Springs Canyon, and proceeded to burn very expensive homes in the area.

Investigators believe the fire was human-caused.

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