The fire that tore through an apartment at 6651 Picasso Rd. on Nov. 30, leaving two people dead and two others injured, may have been caused by a space heater, authorities say.
The fire, which occurred at about 3:30 a.m., killed Arcadio Lopez Castrejon, 41, and his 7-year-old son, Fabian Arcadio Lopez. The two remaining family members, Leonor Lopez, 41, and Christian Lopez, 5, suffered severe burns and were released from Cottage Hospital in late December. The fire was contained to the one apartment and none of the approximately 60 other people living in the complex were injured.
Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Charlie Johnson said investigators believe a space heater placed near furniture may have ignited the fire.
“The origin of the fire was in the living room and the investigators’ concern is about a space heater and the arrangement of the furniture,” he said. “They have to send the space heater to a forensics lab to see if it is in fact the culprit. More definitive answers will be available after the forensics exam.”
Misuse or careless use of space heaters is a common cause for igniting fires, Johnson said.
“We have a problem nationwide with space heaters. They’re designed to temporarily take the chill off the air at night and in the morning, or if you have an area where you’re around the heater constantly, like a workshop or studio,” he said. “What we don’t want to see is people using them in their house in place of central heating. We also don’t recommend people leave them on if they are sleeping.”
Johnson said a space heater should have 36 inches of clearance all the way around it in order to ensure safety.