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Bill Macfadyen: Suspicious Fires Prompt Authorities to Sound Alarm for Public’s Help

Noozhawk's Top 5 responds to Lower Westside blazes, identifies a video star, goes off-roading, follows up on the case of Nuh Kimbwala and invests in

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Fire Lights Up Night, Threatens Structures on Santa Barbara’s Westside

A brush fire ignited near Loma Alta Drive on Santa Barbara’s Lower Westside on the evening of Jan. 21, and flames from the blaze were visible throughout much of downtown.

Just under three acres were burned before firefighters got the upper hand about 20 minutes after they arrived at the scene, along the base of TV Hill. No injuries were reported but three nearby houses were threatened briefly.

Newly appointed Fire Chief Pat McElroy said SBFD dispatched seven fire engines, including Santa Barbara County Fire Department crews under a mutual-aid agreement.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

One night later, a fire was reported off Loma Alta about four blocks away from the first blaze. There were no injuries or damage from the second fire but authorities are seeing a pattern.

“We’re looking at these fires as deliberately set,” said city Fire Marshal Joe Poire.

Anyone with information about the fires is encouraged to call the Santa Barbara City Fire Department at 805.965.5254.

2. Police Use Home-Security Video to Catch Alleged Burglars

Matthew Storm Baucom
Matthew Storm Baucom

With drones roaming the skies and all of the world now one big reality show, it’s no surprise that surveillance video cameras have become the latest must-have home accessory. A Santa Barbara couple discovered that trend the hard way last week when they were arrested as suspects in a Riviera burglary.

A family in the 400 block of Alameda Padre Serra returned to their house on the night of Jan. 16 to discover that a break-in had occurred. Among the missing items were seven wristwatches and large sums of cash. Santa Barbara police got a big break in the case, thanks to high-quality video from the home’s security cameras.

After reviewing the tape, officers quickly matched still images of the suspect to Matthew Storm Baucom, 39, of Santa Barbara, who already was being prosecuted in a 2011 burglary case. The vehicle he was driving matched one registered to his girlfriend, Brooke April Standish, 33.

Police got a search warrant and moved in on the couple’s apartment in the 300 block of Palm Avenue, where officers found several of the stolen watches and a large sum of cash that they believe belonged to the victims.

Baucom was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of residential burglary and possession of burglary tools, and for being an unlicensed driver. His bail was set at $50,000.

Standish was booked on suspicion of being an accessory to a crime (burglary), possession of stolen property, possession of a dangerous drug, and possession of access card information. Her bail was set at $20,000.

3. Driver Rescued After Being Trapped in Crashed Vehicle Overnight

A Solvang man was trapped in the wreckage of his car for 15 hours after he drove off Highway 154 and plunged down an embankment Jan. 21.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer James Richards, Michael Crolius was driving his Toyota Prius at a high rate of speed when he missed a sharp curve near San Antonio Creek Road and went over the side of the roadway.

The good news is that Crolius suffered only moderate injuries in the ordeal. The bad news — for him — is that the CHP is investigating prescription drug impairment as the possible primary cause of the crash.

After the wreck, Richards said Crolius used his cell phone to call his family but asked them not to contact authorities. Wisely, his family disregarded his request and reported the accident. It wasn’t until the next morning that rescuers were able to locate the car, however.

The investigation is ongoing.

4. Police Not Recommending Criminal Charges Against Harding Principal Nuh Kimbwala

Nuh Kimbwala
Nuh Kimbwala

Santa Barbara police have finished their investigation of Harding University Partnership School Principal Nuh Kimbwala, who had been accused of misdemeanor child abuse of a nonsexual nature. Detectives turned the case over to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office with a recommendation that no criminal charges be filed.

Kimbwala was hired as Harding’s principal in August but, in November, was placed on paid administrative leave for undisclosed reasons. Assistant Principal Vanesha Davis has been serving as principal in his absence.

5. $103 Million Investment a Sign of Continued Success for

It may not be an “overnight” success story, but is certainly a fast-growing one. Since Lynda Weinman and her husband, Bruce Heavin, founded the online video tutorial business in 1995, the Carpinteria company has grown to more than 2 million subscribers and 400 employees, and boasts a library of 87,000 high-quality instructional videos. To fuel its continued growth, has just closed a deal for a $103 million venture-capital investment from Accel Partners, Spectrum Equity and Meritech Capital Partners.

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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