Jesusita Fire

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Jesusita FIre
Jesusita Fire, May 7, 2009, climbing the Santa Ynez Mountains behind Santa Barbara.
Location Santa Barbara, California
Coordinates 34°27′00″N 119°43′01″W / 34.45°N 119.717°W / 34.45; -119.717Coordinates: 34°27′00″N 119°43′01″W / 34.45°N 119.717°W / 34.45; -119.717
Cost $20 million
Date(s) May 5, 2009 (2009-05-05) – May 18, 2009 (2009-05-18)
Burned area 8,733 acres (35 km2)
Cause Sparks off of trail clearing equipment
  • 80 homes
  • 79 outbuildings
  • 1 commercial
Injuries 28
Jesusita Fire is located in California Southern
Jesusita Fire
Location of fire in Southern California
Satellite image of the Jesusita Fire burn scar on May 10, 2009, taken from the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite . Image shows the northern part of the burned area, which stretches from the outskirts of Santa Barbara (hidden beneath clouds) into the Los Padres National Forest.

The Jesusita Fire was a wildfire that began at approximately 1:45 PM on May 5, 2009 in the hills of Santa Barbara, California. The fire burned 8,733 acres (35.34 km2), destroyed 80 homes and damaged 15 more before being 100% contained.[1] The cause of the fire was ultimately traced to local contractors who had been clearing a trail using a weed wacker without proper permits.


The fire started on the afternoon of May 5, on the Jesusita Trail just below Cathedral Peak in the Santa Barbara foothills.[2] Within a mater of hours the fire had crown to 150 acres (0.61 km2) with 50-mile-per-hour (80 km/h) sundowner winds expected.[3] Officials issued mandatory evacuations for approximately 1,200 homes in the hills above Santa Barbara.[3]

By Monday May 8, the fire perimeter extended from west of Highway 154, in the hills burned in the 1990 Painted Cave Fire, across the front country of the Santa Ynez Mountains east through Mission Canyon, Rattlesnake Canyon, and into the hills above Montecito, reaching the area burned by the Gap Fire in July 2008 and the Tea Fire in November 2008. Intense sundowner winds caused the fire to spread rapidly during evening and nighttime hours during its first three days.[4]

The fire was fully contained on May 18 after having burned 8,733 acres (35.34 km2) and destroying 80 homes.[1]


An estimated 35,000 people were forced to evacuate during the fire.[5]The Red Cross had shelters for evacuees at the Multi-Activity Court located in the UCSB Recreational Center. From May 5 to May 9, 2009, evacuees were also sheltered at San Marcos High School in Goleta.[4]

Much of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden was destroyed on the night of May 7.[6]


On December 11, 2009 charges were filed against Craig Ilenstine and Dana Larsen citing them for operating a weed whacker without a required hot work permit.[7] The two were not charged with the felony of actually started the fire, but instead with the misdemeanor of not obtaining the proper permit for hot work.[7][8]

In July 2010, Ilenstine and Larsen plead no contest to the misdemeanor violation of county-code. The code states that anyone performing work that could spark a fire must have a shovel or fire extinguisher on hand.[9] The two were each sentenced to 250 hours of community service, three years probation and a $490 fine.[9]

A year later, in July 2011, 60 of the owners of homes destroyed by the fire filed a civil lawsuit against Stihl Incorporated, the manufacturer of the brush-cutting equipment, alleging that Stihl failed to warn users that the metal blades of the cutter could emit sparks capable of starting a fire in a high-risk area. In July 2013 Stihl agreed to settle the claims for an undisclosed amount of money.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Jesusita Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Cooper, Lara (5 August 2013). "STIHL Tool Company Settles Lawsuit with Jesusita Fire Victims". Noozhawk. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Macfadyen, William (5 May 2009). "Wildfire Burning Above San Roque Canyon". Noozhawk. Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  4. ^ a b Macfadyen, William (6 May 2009). "Jesusita Fire: Ferocious Winds Fan Flames, Fuel Fears". Noozhawk. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  5. ^ Magnoli, Giana (11 December 2009). "Jesusita Fire Investigators Charge Two for Working Without Permits". Noozhawk. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  6. ^ Lelyveld, Nita (7 May 2009). "Santa Barbara fire: Botanic garden loses century-old building". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Ford, Ray (9 December 2009). "DA Explains Jesusita Fire Charges". Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  8. ^ Magnoli, Giana (11 December 2009). "Jesusita Fire Investigators Charge Two for Working Without Permits". Noozhawk. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Scroggin, Samantha Yale (1 July 2010). "No-contest pleas entered in Jesusita Fire case". Lompoc Record. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  10. ^ Ford, Ray (1 August 2013). "Jesusita Fire Settlement Reached". Retrieved 2 September 2016. 

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