Arson is the suspected cause of an early-morning blaze that destroyed a popular downtown nightclub.

At approximately 4 a.m. on Dec. 27, the Santa Barbara City Fire Dept. was dispatched to the Wildcat Lounge, located on 15 West Ortega Street, to investigate a report of smoke coming from the rear window of the nightclub. According to Acting Battalion Chief of the SB City Fire Dept. Andrew Di Mizio, a city water department crew reported the fire, which is currently under investigation.

“Arson is suspected, due to suspicious materials found in the rear of the building, but there is currently no suspect,” he said.

Although the fire caused thousands of dollars of damage to the Wildcat, adjacent buildings escaped with minor damage and no injuries were reported, Di Mizio said.

“When we got on the scene, there was a lot of smoke coming out of the window in the rear of the building. We entered the premises through the rear security gates located in the back and extinguished the fire,” he said. “There was serious fire damage to the Wildcat property itself, but the damage to neighboring properties was limited to minor smoke damage. The damage to the Wildcat was serious, but it was not burnt down.”

The fire was designated as a second alarm call in order to contain the fire and minimize damage to surrounding buildings, Di Mizio said.

“The incident was a second alarm call, meaning when the first truck arrived on the scene they called in an extra two trucks due to the volume of the fire on the premises. The extra trucks were dispatched to make sure the fire didn’t enter the neighboring buildings,” he said. “The fire was under control within an hour of the first truck on scene.”

The official cause of the fire has yet to be determined, and the incident is currently under investigation. Anyone with information regarding the fire is encouraged to call the Santa Barbara City Fire Dept. hotline at 564-5703.

– Shaun P. McGrady