Two cars exploded outside a house on the 6700 block of Pasado Road early Thursday morning from a fire investigators have deemed an act of arson.

Nearly 50 onlookers watched as a Chevy Avalanche and Toyota Forerunner burst into flames shortly after 3 a.m. yesterday. A third vehicle was damaged by radiant heat, and before the fire department could arrive, the blaze also burned down a power line. The destroyed power line resulted in an outage on the mountainside block of Pasado Road from 4 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.

After investigating, the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. determined that the fire was intentionally set. Although firemen pulled the charred remains of a Christmas tree out from under the destroyed Chevy Avalanche, authorities have not confirmed that this was the origin of the flames.

The two vehicles that exploded belonged to third-year business economics major TJ MacFarlane and third-year business economics major Matt Hilton.

Jonathon Leavy, a third-year business economics major and MacFarlane and Hilton’s roommate, watched as the flames destroyed the two cars.

“The tires were popping,” Leavy said. “The windows were exploding, there was glass in the yard. Then the telephone wires caught on fire and exploded and were sparking. It was like fireworks.”

Hilton said he was concerned the fire would spread and threaten nearby residences.

“The flames were so big,” Hilton said. “My first thoughts were, ‘Oh, shit the house is going to catch on fire.’ We were probably out there a good hour before the flames were gone.”

Chuck Hages – a third-year chemical engineering major and fellow roommate – also witnessed the blaze while waiting for the fire trucks to arrive.

“We were just standing there watching TJ’s car burn for like seven to 10 minutes,” Hages said. “And then we watched Matt’s car burn for like another five before any cops or firemen showed up. It was a total of like 15 minutes.”

Traffic was blocked on the road for about 90 minutes and some residents were temporarily relocated as a precaution. No structures were damaged.

Investigators are requesting that anyone who may have information call the Fire Prevention Division at (805) 686-5074.