Men charged with misdemeanors for starting Jesusita fire

Jesusita fire
Jesusita fire

(Updated at 9:00 a.m. December 12)

Two men have been accused of linked with starting last May’s Jesusita Fire near Santa Barbara, California and charged with using weed eaters without a “hot work” permit. The fire burned 8,733 acres, destroyed 160 structures, and damaged 17 others.

Allegedly, Craig William Ilenstine, 50, and Dana Neil Larsen, 45, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office:

“…had not obtained a hot work permit as required by law, and neither person took the requisite precautions of watching or having someone else watch the area where they worked for at least thirty minutes after they finished using their weed cutters, to make sure they did not leave any smoldering areas.”

If convicted, the men could face $25,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail, in addition to restitution for the costs of suppressing the fire.

Wildfire Today covered the Jesusita fire HERE.

UPDATE @ 9:41 a.m. December 11

The Santa Barbara Independent has a lengthy article about this issue. Apparently it is very unusual for anyone to have a “hot work” permit when they are doing trail maintenance, as it appears Mr. Ilenstine and Mr. Larsen were doing.

UPDATE @ 9:00 a.m. December 12

According to another article in the Santa Barbara Independent, the two men are not being charged with starting the fire, only with operating equipment without a “hot work” permit. It is a very confusing situation, in that they are not being charged with starting the fire, but if convicted of the permit violation, the District Attorney may seek damages, in which case he will have to prove causation between the use of the weed eater and the start of the fire.

The District Attorney, in a press conference, when asked if the weed eater had a metal blade rather than nylon string, said “That would be the case”. He said when a weed eater has a metal blade a “hot work” permit is required.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.