Wildfire news, October 10, 2008

California: Ranch-hands Accused Of Starting 2007 Zaca Fire Not To Face Felony Charges

SANTA MARIA – A Santa Maria Judge says two local ranch-hands repairing a water pipe on a hot and windy day in the Santa Barbara County backcountry last year did not recklessly cause the Zaca Fire. The Zaca Fire started on the Fourth of July and eventually burned more than 240 thousand acres in the backcountry.

Ranch-hands Jose Cabrera and Santiago Cervantes were charged with multiple felonies. The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office says the two men did not take necessary safety precautions when they used a metal grinder to repair the pipe that would deliver water for cattle on a ranch near Zaca Station Road.

The DA says sparks from the grinder flew into dry brush that started the Zaca Fire… and was spread by strong, santa ana winds.

Defense attorneys for the two men maintained it was an accident. Thery say Cabrera and Cervantes tool reasonable precautions by clearing some brush around the water pipe.. and by keeping a shovel and five-gallon bucket of water nearby in case of a fire.

During a preliminary hearing in Santa Maria, Judge Zel Canter ruled both of the men.. including their employer Rancho La Laguna.. were not reckless in their actions and may now only face misdemeanor negligence charges.

Despite the obvious relief on their faces in the courtroom, both Cabrera and Cervantes had little to say outside court.

“Yeah, yeah I am”, said defendant Santiago Cervantes after walking out of the courtroom, “Do you think justice was served? Yes. Do you think it was because it was an accident? That’s all I want to say, thank you.”

“Your reaction to the judge’s decision? No comment, no comment”, said defendant Cabrera as he quickly exited the courtroom.

“We don’t comment on pending cases”, says defense attorney Bob Sanger, “there’s still a misdemeanor charge against them”.

Deputy District Attorney Jerry Lelujian also had no comment on the judge’s ruling.

Also named in the criminal complaint involving the Zaca Fire is Rancho La Laguna where the two defendants once worked

Total damages from the Zaca Fire are nearly 120 million dollars.

From kcoy.com

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.