Careless Students' Bonfire Started Montecito Blaze

Sheriff not sure bonfire builders will be charged
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2008 11:13 AM CST
Mount Calvary Benedictine Monastery, left, appears destroyed as a firefighting spotter aircraft flies past after a wind-driven wildfire swept through Montecito, California.   (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
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(Newser) – A group of students who failed to completely put out a hilltop bonfire apparently caused the destructive Montecito fire, a Santa Barbara sheriff told the Los Angeles Times. The blaze destroyed 210 homes and injured at least 25 people last week. A district attorney will decide whether to charge the students after a full investigation.

The group of 10 youths met at an abandoned property on a mountain ridge and lit the bonfire to keep warm. They told investigators they thought the embers were out when they left. California has been cracking down on accidental fire-starters—only 7% of wildfires are the result of arson—including partying groups and workers whose tools ignite dry grass.