A Santa Barbara man has admitted setting a November brushfire near a bike path south of Ward Drive in Santa Barbara that prompted a fire department evacuation warning to local residents, prosecutors said.
Jose Martin Alvarez-Castro, 30, appeared in court last Tuesday to set a date for his preliminary hearing on a felony arson charge, but instead he changed his mind and switched his plea from not guilty to guilty, prosecutor Michelle Mossembekker told the News-Press.
“The case was continued for sentencing to 2/21/23,” she said.
The defendant was charged with recklessly causing a fire of a structure or forest on Nov. 2 for starting a fire that burned some brush near the bike path.
He also was charged with possessing methamphetamine and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors, but those counts are expected to be dismissed when he is sentenced on the arson charge.
Sheriff’s deputies and county firefighters responded at 11:40 p.m. on Nov. 2 to a report of a fire in the brush area near the bike path between the south end of Ward Drive and More Ranch Road.
“When deputies arrived, a witness provided information about a possible suspect
in the area,” sheriff’s officials said in a news release at the time.
While deputies alerted residents in the surrounding area about the fire, additional deputies searched for the suspect.
At about 11:57 p.m., deputies located and detained a person matching the suspect’s description provided by a witness on the bike path, sheriff’s officials said.
Mr. Alvarez-Castro was subsequently arrested on suspicion of arson, obstruction of a peace officer and possession of a controlled substance.
Other sheriff’s deputies, meanwhile, remained on scene until county firefighters confirmed that the evacuation warning that was issued for the More Ranch area had been lifted.