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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 6:37 am | Fair 42º


Help Sought Identifying Vehicle Suspected Of Igniting 3 Fires

The largest blaze that sparked Aug. 16, the Cuesta Fire, is 85 percent contained and 2,446 acres, Cal Fire officials say

Cal Fire released this photo of a pickup pulling a fifth-wheel travel trailer and a Volkswagen Bug Monday night, saying it is suspected of sparking three fires in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties on Aug. 16.
Cal Fire released this photo of a pickup pulling a fifth-wheel travel trailer and a Volkswagen Bug Monday night, saying it is suspected of sparking three fires in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties on Aug. 16. (Cal Fire photo)

Cal Fire officials have released a photo of the vehicle suspected of sparking fires at three separate locations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties on Aug. 16.

The photo, reportedly taken in Arroyo Grande,  show a white pickup pulling a trailer towing a Volkswagen Bug, Cal Fire representatives said.

Anyone with information about this vehicle in the photo should contact the Cal Fire arson hotline at 800.468.4408, officials said Monday.

People who call the hotline can remain anonymous.

Sparks from the vehicle are suspected of igniting the Cuesta Fire, now 85 percent contained and 2,446 acres, Cal Fire said Monday night. 

The fire’s size is smaller than the 3,500-acre estimate released in recent days, which Cal Fire officials credited with aircraft that conducted previous assessments being limited by dense tree canopy, heavy smoke conditions and local coastal fog.

Firefighters hope to fully contain the fire by Wednesday, with a force of 1,326 members still involved in the battle that last week led to the evacuation of hundreds of homes in Santa Margarita as flames advanced on the small community north of San Luis Obispo.

Before the Cuesta Fire started at 6:12 p.m. along Highway 101 at the Cuesta Grade, another vegetation fire ignited on Highway 101 at the Nojoqui Summit at 4:40 p.m.

The two-alarm fire burned around six acres before it was contained that night, Santa Barbara County Fire Department representatives said. 

The blaze sent up a large cloud of black smoke, which firefighters blamed on a burning plastic pipe in the culvert under the freeway. The thick dark smoke made it appear the flames had crossed the highway. 

Firefighters used foam and water at both ends of the pipe to extinguish the burning plastic.

After the Cuesta Fire, a third blaze burned on Highway 41 at Cottonwood Pass. The Cholame Fire burned eight acres.

Other drivers had reported the night of the fires that the blazes were started by a vehicle pulling a trailer, and possibly dragging a chain, creating sparks that ignited the drought-thirsty vegetation.

All three blazes occurred adjacent to uphill portions of the roadways, according to Cal Fire. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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