Cal Fire investigators have issued a news release asking the public's help in identifying the vehicle that started the Cuesta Fire on Sunday evening.
Investigators say they believe a vehicle experiencing some kind of mechanical problem was traveling northbound over the Cuesta Grade Sunday and ignited dry vegetation next to the road. The fire was reported at about 6:12 p.m. Sunday.
The same vehicle may also be responsible for a fire on the uphill stretch of Highway 101 at Nojoqui Grade in Santa Barbara County and one on an uphill section of Highway 41 east of Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo County, Cal Fire Capt. Kevin McLean said. The fires all started within the time that it takes to drive northbound on the route, he said.
Anyone who saw a vehicle heading northbound on Highway 101 on the Cuesta Grade with mechanical trouble, dragging a chain or that could have been involved in starting a fire between 5:30 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. Sunday is asked to call the Cal Fire Arson Hotline at 1-800-468-4408. Callers may remain anonymous.
"We've gotten some people calling" reporting possible vehicles," McLean said. "We've ruled them out because they were going in the opposite direction. We've exhausted all our leads at this point."
McLean said investigators don't believe the fires were deliberately set.
""We believe that it's not arson," he said. "The reason we have people calling the arson hotline is because it's staffed 24-7."
The Cuesta Fire remains at 3,500 acres burned and 35 percent contained.