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Nine of 10 People Involved in Tea Fire Are From SBCC

The school's announcement ends rampant speculation; officials say they will cooperate during the investigation.

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A sunrise shines on the remains of the Santa Barbara castle, highlighting the devastating effects of the Tea Fire. (Barbara Fabian photo)

Nine of the 10 young adults involved with the bonfire that authorities say started the Tea Fire were from Santa Barbara City College, school officials said Thursday morning.

The announcement ends the feverish speculation about which school the young people attended, ever since Tuesday, when Sheriff Bill Brown said they were associated with a school but wouldn’t say which one.

In a statement, Andreea Serban, president and superintendent of SBCC, said the school community is deeply saddened by the news.

“This tragedy also has had a direct and significant impact on SBCC faculty, staff and students who were among those who lost their homes and personal possessions during this fire,” she said. “Our students, as with all college students, have personal lives outside of the college. We acknowledge these boundaries and do not oversee students’ personal activities away from campus.”

Serban said college officials will cooperate with local authorities during the investigation.

On Wednesday, officials from Westmont College and UCSB made statements saying they had received word that the students in question did not attend their schools. The Westmont statement came amid speculation among some that the students may have come from that school.

The fire began as a bonfire in the Tea Garden, in an estate just north of the Westmont campus on Wednesday night. The individuals, according to the investigators, left the area early Thursday morning but apparently failed to completely extinguish the fire, which smoldered and reignited Thursday evening. By Tuesday morning, it had burned through nearly 2,000 acres in the fire-prone area and destroyed 210 homes in Santa Barbara and Montecito.

One death is indirectly attributed to the blaze, and there were about a dozen injuries.

School is scheduled to resume at Westmont on Dec. 1.

The city and county of Santa Barbara also have closed several parks and trails in the Tea Fire area until further notice, including Parma Park, Skofield Park, Rattlesnake Canyon Trail and Cold Springs Trail.

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