The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office has charged two men with misdemeanors in connection with May’s Jesusita Fire.
An investigation revealed that Craig William Ilenstine, 50, and Dana Neil Larsen, 45, were using gas-powered tools to trim bush and limbs in the origin area of the blaze without obtaining a permit required from the fire marshal for welding, cutting, open torches and other hot work operations and equipment, the DA’s office said in a news release released Thursday.
The point of origin is in a high fire danger area, so a hot work permit is required. For a permit, people must show that precautions are in place to prevent fire, such as having firefighting equipment and watching the area for at least 30 minutes afterward to make sure nothing is left smoldering.
Ilenstine and Larsen have been charged with one misdemeanor each of violating California Fire Code. They will be arraigned in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in January.
The maximum penalty for the charged offense is a $25,000 fine and imprisonment of up to 90 days. If convicted, the DA’s Office said it plans to ask the court to impose full criminal restitution on behalf of victims of the Jesusita Fire. The California Department of Forestry also plans to pursue civil cost recovery.
Consulted by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, the DA’s Office concluded that it can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt the mental state for a felony charge, according to the news release.
The DA’s Office and the county fire officials will hold a news conference Friday. Check back with Noozhawk for a full report.
The Jesusita Fire started the afternoon of May 5 on the Jesusita Trail in upper San Roque Canyon and burned nearly 9,000 acres.
— Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at email@example.com.