Three days after a fire in the historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse, investigators continue to analyze the cause of the blaze.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, the City of Santa Barbara Fire Dept. responded to reports of smoke inside the Public Defender’s office on the third floor of the courthouse building. The flames soon spread and a total of six engine companies, two truck companies, a hazmat unit, a Battalion Chief and a truck company from the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. were called in to extinguish the flames.
According to County Communications Director William Boyer, a relatively small fire in an equipment room sent smoke throughout the public defender’s office, which prompted a third alarm response to the downtown courthouse building. The smoke traveled along the ceiling, making the origin of the fire difficult to determine initially.
According to Boyer, investigators are still attempting to determine the cause of the fire.
“The cause remains under investigation,” Boyer said. “The city of Santa Barbara brought in a lot of resources. The costs of the damage are still being worked on.”
Although the fire was put out before causing any extensive damage, smoke damaged ceiling tiles and the historic Mural Room.
The Fire Dept. reported that they only used around 15 gallons of water to fight the fire in order to prevent water damage to the building — which was built in 1929 and, according to Boyer, is the most historic and photographed structure in Santa Barbara.
Battalion Chief Pat McElroy said that this fire was also unique because the flames were not easy to locate.
“Our problem was finding the fire,” McElroy said. “In this case, it was kind of different. We were concerned with the historical nature of the building.”
After following department protocol by ensuring that the building was evacuated and all citizens that had been inside the structure were safe, McElroy said the fire units used thermal imaging cameras to locate the source of the smoke.
McElroy said the Fire Dept.’s primary concern was protecting the historic building.
“We were … concerned with saving the whole building,” McElroy said. “We wanted to make sure [the fire] didn’t spread.”