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Couple get $6-million settlement in 2008 Santa Barbara County fire

Tea fire 2008
A Santa Barbara couple seriously burned in a fast-moving brush fire in the hills above Montecito in 2008 have settled their lawsuit against a property owner for $6 million, according to their lawyer.

Lance and Carla Hoffman, both 29 at the time, suffered third-degree burns when they were overtaken by flames as they fled their rented house and tried to escape the Tea fire, dubbed for an adjacent property known as the Tea Garden.

Fire officials later determined a group of college students had sparked the blaze by setting a bonfire on the Tea Garden property on Nov. 12, 2008. Twelve hours later, the embers sparked a fire that destroyed 210 homes and injured 25 people, The Times reported at the time.

The couple’s lawsuit alleged the owner of the Tea Garden property, which had a number of abandoned structures and scenic views of the Santa Barbara coastline, knew or should have known that students and others had long gathered there to drink and build bonfires.

The Hoffmans have undergone “dozens of surgical procedures,” with others yet to come, and have racked up more than $4.6 million in medical bills, said David Nye, their Santa Barbara attorney.

The couple settled an earlier lawsuit against the owner of their rented home for $1 million and have another suit pending against 10 students alleged to have started the fire, Nye said.

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 -- Kim Christensen

Photo: Brother Joseph Brown, of the Order of the Holy Cross Benedictine, stands among the rubble of the Mount Calvary Monastery after the 2008 Tea fire. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 
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