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Santa Barbara Trails Council

Fire Investigators Suspect La Brea Fire Caused by Marijuana Cultivation

Evidence Points to Illegal Cooking Fire as Cause of the 84,000-Acre Blaze


Saturday, August 15, 2009

A week-long investigation by U.S. Forest Service special agents, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit, and Fire investigators revealed that the origin of La Brea fire is the result of a marijuana drug trafficking operation. Specifically, officials believe the fire started from flames or sparks from a campfire used for cooking.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit has confirmed that the camp at the origin of the fire was an illegal marijuana operation believed to be headed by a Mexican drug organization.

At the intersection of Owl Canyon and the south fork of La Brea Canyon, near a backpacker’s campground known as Cuchadas, the fire began in one of the most remote and overgrown sections of the San Rafael Wilderness. The camp is several miles inside the area and approximately two air miles south of the Sierra Madre Ridge.

Evidence of the garden, which did not burn during the fire, was discovered in the past few days. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit, which has been working to eradicate other cultivation sites in nearby parts of the back country, believes the suspects are still within the San Rafael Wilderness and may be trying to leave the area on foot.

Officials warn not to approach anyone who looks suspicious but to instead contact the nearest law enforcement agency. Anyone with further information is urged to contact U.S. Forest Service, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, or local law enforcement agencies.

La Brea Fire Tip Line is still open, and anyone with additional information helpful to this ongoing investigation is urged to contact investigators at (805) 686-5074; your call can remain anonymous.

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