Tuesday, October 23 , 2018, 2:06 pm | Fair 70º

 
 
 
 

Vehicle Driven by Juvenile Confirmed as Cause of 18,340-Acre Whittier Fire

Blaze sparked when passenger vehicle was driving through tall grass on the hillside above Camp Whittier

Most of the buildings at the Rancho Alegre Boy Scout Camp near Lake Cachuma were destroyed by last summer’s Whittier Fire. U.S. Forest Service officials confirmed Monday that a vehicle driven by a juvenile through tall grass sparked the 18,340-acre blaze. Click to view larger
Most of the buildings at the Rancho Alegre Boy Scout Camp near Lake Cachuma were destroyed by last summer’s Whittier Fire. U.S. Forest Service officials confirmed Monday that a vehicle driven by a juvenile through tall grass sparked the 18,340-acre blaze. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

Confirming what already was widely known, the U.S. Forest Service on Monday announced that a vehicle was responsible for starting last summer’s Whittier Fire, which charred 18,430 acres straddling the Santa Ynez Mountains west of Goleta.

“The investigation determined that a passenger vehicle driving through tall grass on the hillside above Camp Whittier ignited the fire,” the Forest Service said in a release. 

“Due to the age of the driver, no additional details of the investigation will be made public at this time,” the statement said. 

No criminal charges have been filed in the case.

Emergency radio traffic at the time of the initial dispatch to the fire indicated a vehicle was involved, but until Monday officials had been unwilling to confirm that.

The fire broke out July 8 on Bureau of Reclamation land, and quickly spread into Los Padres National Forest.

Driven by gusty conditions, the fire prompted hundreds of evacuations and road closures on both sides of the mountains.

Sixteen residences were destroyed and another one was damaged, and 30 outbuildings were destroyed, with six more damaged.

The fire heavily damaged The Outdoor School and the Rancho Alegre Boy Scout Camp, where most buildings burned to the ground.

Also damaged were Camp Whittier and the Circle V Ranch Camp. 

Shortly after the blaze broke out, Forest Service, County Fire and other responders made a dramatic rescue of children and counselors trapped at the Circle V Ranch Camp.

The fire wasn’t declared fully contained until Oct. 5, although it did not increase in size after July 20.

Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen told Noozhawk no decision has been made about whether a civil lawsuit will be filed in relation to the fire.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

Smoke from the southwest flank of the Whittier Fire blocks out the afternoon sun on July 14. Click to view larger
Smoke from the southwest flank of the Whittier Fire blocks out the afternoon sun on July 14. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

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