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Two men charged with starting Jesusita fire in Santa Barbara

December 10, 2009 |  2:19 pm

Santa Barbara officials today said they were charging two men with misdemeanors for allegedly sparking the Jesusita fire in May by clearing a trail with gas-powered weed cutters.

Craig Ilenstine, 50, and Dana Neil Larsen, 45, failed to obtain a hot-work permit as required by county code before undertaking the work on the Jesusita trail near Cathedral Peak, said Jerry Lulejian, a Santa Barbara deputy district attorney.

The fire erupted on May 5 after the men used gas trimmers to clear brush and shrubs from the trail, Lulejian said. The unpaved trail, high above Santa Barbara, is popular with hikers and mountain bikers.

High winds stoked the flames into a roaring wildfire that destroyed 80 homes and one commercial building and damaged dozens of other properties. At the height of the flames, nearly two-thirds of Santa Barbara residents were evacuated.

Santa Barbara prosecutors said Cal-Fire would seek restitution from the pair to repay the $17-million cost of fighting the fire.

-- Catherine Saillant

360° Interactive panorama: Jesusita fire devastation

Photo: Firefighter surveys the Jesusita fire in May. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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