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Eight Santa Barbara County Residents Banned From National Forests for Violating Fire Rules

The U.S. Attorneys Office releases the names of the offenders; none was involved with any major fires.

The U.S. Attorneys Office on Tuesday released the names of eight Santa Barbara County residents who have been fined and banned from all national forests for a year after pleading guilty to violating fire restrictions in the Los Padres National Forest.

None of the eight was involved with any major fires, but rather were caught violating rules meant to guard against dangerous fires during high fire season. The residents, each fined $200 to $300, were caught by rangers in four separate incidents, all in September.

On Nov. 21, their cases were heard by a magistrate who makes rulings in cases that involve national-forest regulations, said Kathy Good, a spokeswoman for the Los Padres National Forest.

Four of them pleaded guilty to “building, maintaining or attending” a campfire during fire restrictions at Upper Oso Campground on Sept. 21. They are Santa Barbara residents Tony Ascension-Merchorno, Noe Chora, Enrique Cortez and Addy Peig. 

Lompoc resident Kyle Kauppinen pleaded guilty to the same charge at the Cachuma Campground in the Santa Barbara Ranger District on Sept. 19.

Three pleaded guilty to illegal target shooting at the Arroyo Burro target shooting area on East Camino Cielo. Campfires, charcoal barbecues and target shooting have been prohibited in all areas of Los Padres National Forest since the U.S. Forest Service increased fire restrictions July 18. The three who pleaded guilty are Carpinteria residents Joshua Braswell and Spencer Cook, who were caught shooting in the area Sept. 13, and Santa Barbara resident Giovanni Aceves, caught doing the same thing the next day, Good said.

Good said the cases were made public because it is unusual for people to be banned from national forests for a year.

She added that it was an illegal campfire that sparked the recent Indians wildfire in Monterey County, which burned more than 80,000 acres, destroyed several homes and cost $42.5 million to suppress.

“That sort of thing can happen just about anyplace if people aren’t careful,” she said.

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