USA — Devastation. That was our headline for the last paper we printed after the Tea Fire had destroyed parts of Montecito and Santa Barbara.
Destroying 210 homes and burning over 1,940 acres, the Tea Fire was the second big fire that this community experienced this year. The Gap Fire burned over 10,000 acres, but didn’t destroy any homes, making the Tea Fire an even bigger tragedy.
We now know that nine of the 10 young men and women who may have started the fire are City College students.
According to reports, the students built a bonfire at the Tea Gardens, and walked away thinking it was extinguished.
The students had built a bonfire up by the Tea Gardens, and walked away from what they thought was an extinguished fire. When the winds picked up, burning embers started the fire that could be seen all the way from UCSB down to Ventura.
Did they do this on purpose?
Was this incredibly stupid?
Yes. But, a lot of young people do stupid stuff; things like smoking, drinking, and getting into trouble. A lot of these things are a part of growing up. These people just got really unlucky, as their negligence started a wildfire.
The whole fire is a big misfortune, and our thoughts go out to all the members of the community affected by this tragedy. These kids made a terrible mistake, but there is no need for them to be punished by sending them to jail.
This was an accident, not arson.
Nine out of 10 wildfires are started by humans, either by carelessness or with intent to create a fire. Unattended campfires, equipment fires, smoking and children playing with matches are just a few of the most common reasons for wildfires caused by humans.
In 2007, there were 12,261 wildfires caused by lightning, but 73,446 caused by humans, according to smokeybear.com. And in 2006, a total of 9.8 million acres were burned due to wildfires in the United States.
Should this group of students have known better than to leave a bonfire before making sure it was put out entirely?
We all know the answer to that question. Yes.
Was this the first bonfire in the area? No.
The area where the fire originated is supposedly a hangout spot where bonfires are common.
But did the students know that they had made a bonfire in a red flag zone? Probably not.
Unless you’re involved in local matters, knowing that the red flag was issued is not easily accessible information. Just finding out where there are red flag warnings issued in California requires several jumps between Web pages and fire blogs on the Internet.
We should all take something with us from this tragic event. That is that you can never be too careful when it comes to fire.
Education is key when it comes to avoiding wildfires, and we should all make sure to inform our community and ourselves so that we can avoid another fire like this.
Because of the weather here, California will always have wildfires. But we should make efforts to minimize those caused by human errors.
If you see someone throwing a cigarette butt in the bushes, or in any other way, they are risking starting a wildfire. Speak up.