Destruction from the 6-day-old Jesusita Fire turned out to be far worse than thought Sunday when officials announced that 77 homes had burned down, more than double earlier estimates. As the wildfire appeared to stall in two largely unpopulated tracts, investigators concluded that the blaze probably was caused by someone using power tools to clear brush.

With another day of heavy marine layer and mild weather assisting firefighters, the Unified Command Team continued to pare mandatory evacuation orders until, by late Sunday, just two areas remained closed: East Camino Cielo and Gibraltar Road on the east and, to the northwest, the area bordered by Highway 154 north on Painted Cave Road to East Camino Cielo, to Highway 154 to Painted Cave.

All other neighborhoods were reopened, although evacuation warnings remain for most. Fewer than 400 residents are still under evacuation orders, down from more than 30,000 who had been evacuated as the fire raged dangerously close to densely populated areas late last week.

Officials said Monday morning that the 8,733-acre fire was 70 percent contained, with full containment expected by Wednesday. They urged continued vigilance and caution, however, as the National Weather Service was forecasting a return of high heat and windy conditions by Tuesday.

Officials said a more thorough accounting of the damage was made possible by the fire’s stabilizing conditions Sunday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good news. Santa Barbara County spokesman Derek Johnson said 77 houses were destroyed and another 22 damaged by flames. Earlier estimates said 31 were destroyed and 47 damaged. Click here for photojournalist Isaac Hernandez’s pictorial chronicle of the Jesusita Fire, including an unofficial, house-by-house catalog of many streets in the burn area.

The blaze has cost $10.8 million to fight and injured 28 personnel, officials said. More than 4,100 firefighters have been deployed and the aerial assault includes five air tankers and 15 helicopters.

Investigators confirmed Sunday afternoon that the fire’s origin was on the Jesusita Trail, which is commonly accessed from the areas of San Roque or Tunnel roads. The location is in the Cathedral Peak area of upper San Roque Canyon, an area also known as Inspiration Point.

The cause of the fire appears to be related to the use of power tool equipment involved in brush clearance, fire officials said.

Investigators are requesting public assistance with identification of the individual or individuals engaged in vegetation clearance on Monday and Tuesday. The unidentified individuals are known to have been on the trail between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on both days, Santa Barbara County fire officials said.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Santa Barbara County Tip Line at 805.686.5061 or e-mail

Click here for additional information from the InciWeb Incident Information System.

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If you have fire photos to share with Noozhawk, e-mail them to Click here for a related Noozhawk slide show from the first day of the Jesusita Fire. Click here for a Noozhawk slide show from the second day of the fire. Click here for a Noozhawk slide show from the third day. Click here for a Noozhawk slide show from the fourth day. Click here for a Noozhawk slide show on the fire’s point of origin.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at

Bill Macfadyen

William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher

Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at, and follow him on Instagram: @bill.macfadyen. The opinions expressed are his own.