A pair of recent fires that broke out near the Santa Barbara waterfront are under investigation, though authorities say it does not appear those fires are connected.
“It really boils down to coincidence,” Jim Austin, fire investigator for the Santa Barbara City Fire Department, told the News-Press Tuesday afternoon.
A fire broke out around 8 a.m. April 19 in the 200 block of West Cabrillo Boulevard near Sambo’s restaurant. While some reports indicate the fire was behind the long-time waterfront breakfast spot, Mr. Austin said the fire was actually adjacent to Sambo’s on property belonging to Hotel Milo. The blaze, which is considered suspicious in nature, destroyed a shed and all of its contents. Slight damage was reported to the exterior of Sambo’s and a cooler located indoors was damaged due to radiant heat. No injuries were reported.
The cost of the damage associated with the fire is $7,500 for the shed and $2,500 fo the contents, Mr. Austin said.
When asked to elaborate on why the cause of Sunday’s fire is suspicious, Mr. Austin replied, “The simplest way to put it is I have not found any accidental sources of ignition.”
Around 8 a.m. April 21, authorities responded to the Boat Launch Mini-Mart near the boat launch ramp at the Santa Barbara Harbor, which was consumed by flames as personnel arrived on scene. The building was completely destroyed and all its contents were lost. Preliminary estimates indicate $100,000 in damage to the building and $50,000 for it’s contents, Mr. Austin said.
“I’m confident it was accidental in nature,” Mr. Austin said. “The building was locked and we had to break the door in… there’s no indication of any criminal activity.
“They did have a burglary about a month ago, but an arrest was made there.”
Mr. Austin reiterated that the two recent fires are not connected.
“I know a lot of people want to connect it to the pandemic, but I’m not,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 26 years now and we just have periods where we just seem to get more fires than other times, so I’m not ready to blame it on COVID-19, that’s for sure.”
The fire department has also responded to its fair share of fires within transient camps located near highway on or offramps in recent weeks, something that is not uncommon.
“Traditionally when the weather starts warming back up and transients are — not that I’m blaming all the fires on them, but some of them I absolutely can — they start not taking advantage of shelters and things like that because the weather is warmer, so they’ll be having their own cooking fires and things like that. It’s not unusual for things to pick up when the weather gets better.”
Over the next few days, temperatures in the lower to mid 80s are expected along with strong winds, according to the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
A wind advisory went into effect Tuesday morning and will remain in place until 9 p.m. tonight due to northeast winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph for the South Coast, county mountains, cities of Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria, as well as San Marcos Pass and the San Rafael and Dick Smith Wilderness areas.
Once that advisory expires tonight, a high wind watch will be in effect through Thursday afternoon. North winds 25-40 mph with gusts up to 65 mph possible, which could cause downed trees and power outages.
Sunny conditions are forecast this weekend and into the early portions of next week, according to the Weather Service.