Fire in Cambria likely was caused by fireworks, officials say

ktanner@thetribunenews.comDecember 26, 2013 

A small hillside blaze after midnight in Cambria on Tuesday likely was sparked by fireworks, according to firefighting officials. Cambria is among the areas of San Luis Obispo County where fireworks are banned.

Firefighters quickly doused the fire, which torched a forested area of about 40 feet square on the upside of the Burton Drive hill, below the Cambria Pines Lodge.

The Cambria Fire Department and other agencies had received reports earlier in the evening about possible fireworks being launched, according to Fire Capt. Steve Bitto. At least one other firework was seen Christmas night. However, investigators have been unable to find proof or the people who may have been committing the crimes.

Bitto said, “My guess is they were driving around town, shooting them off from wherever they were.”

One doesn’t have to look far to find frightening parallels: Less than two weeks ago, a blaze in Big Sur scorched 917 acres and destroyed 34 homes and four outbuildings.

With that in mind, Bitto said lighting fireworks in Cambria “is totally irresponsible. We’re a prime target, especially with these weather conditions. We’re in the second year of a drought. We have offshore breezes, high temperatures, low humidity and heavy fuel loading.”

He said he has “a hard time believing” that people using fireworks at all in Cambria, let alone under drought conditions, “don’t know that what they’re doing is wrong, that someone could be so uninformed as to do something so dangerous.”

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Stuart MacDonald, if damage is done by a fireworks-triggered fire, the person who owned or lit the incendiary devices can be charged with a crime and held responsible for the cost of fighting the fire and any damage caused.

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