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Investigators Say Brush Clearing Operation Actually Started Central Coast Brush Fire

Mike Eliason
Santa Barbara County Fire Department
A helicopter makes a water drop on the September 6 Caballo Fire in the Santa Ynez Valley. Homes were threatened, but the fire was stopped before it could reach them.

Blaze threatened homes before being controlled.

Investigators say an effort to prevent a brush fire on the Central Coast actually sparked one.

The Caballo Fire threatened homes and ranches, and charred nearly 70 acres of land northeast of Los Olivos September 6. No homes were destroyed, but a barn was heavily damaged.

Santa Barbara County Fire investigators say the blaze was sparked by someone using a propane torch to clear weeds and brush. Flames from the operation spread to nearby brush, and quickly mushroomed out of control. Firefighters had to use air tankers, and helicopters to get control of the fire.

Investigators say a permit is required for the use of torches in high wildfire risk areas. They say in the case of the Caballo Fire, the operator didn’t have one.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.