Local authorities have confirmed that the nine of the 10 individuals involved in the bonfire that sparked last week’s Tea Fire are students at Santa Barbara City College.
On Tuesday, authorities said the fire had been a result of a late-night bonfire, but withheld information concerning the identity of the individuals involved until yesterday. Currently, there have been no charges brought against the 10 persons involved, but local officials are still in the process of deciding their fate. If charged with negligence, the suspects could potentially be responsible for financial restitution for the damages, as well as the cost of fighting the fire.
In a statement, SBCC President Andreea M. Serban said that the college will cooperate in the ongoing investigation.
“We are deeply saddened by this news, and extend our heartfelt sympathies to all members of the community and their families who were affected by this tragedy,” Serban said. “The authorities will decide any further course of action for these students who were involved in this tragic accident.”
At a press conference Tuesday, Sheriff Bill Brown announced that the group responsible for the bonfire believed it had extinguished the flames prior to leaving the Tea House — a property located at the 700 block of East Mountain Drive — between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Thursday morning. Due to hot and windy weather conditions the next day, however, the fire picked up again, eventually spreading through Montecito. Over the next several days, 1,940 acres burned and 219 buildings were destroyed.
The fire also torched numerous buildings on the Westmont College campus. In a statement, Scott Craig, manager of media relations at Westmont, said the college is working to reopen the campus in wake of the fire, amid rumors of student involvement.
“Investigators have determined that no current Westmont students were involved in the fire,” Craig said. “Any suggestions to the contrary are false and damaging. Despite rumors and speculation on the Internet, our utmost priority throughout the investigation has been addressing the needs of our campus and the surrounding community.”
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Paul Desruisseaux has also confirmed that no UCSB students were present at the catastrophic bonfire.