Santa Paula Times

Fireworks being investigated as cause of spectacular palm tree fire

July 21, 2010
Santa Paula News

A huge burst of flames caused a lot of excitement but little damage when a palm tree caught fire Monday afternoon, an incident that fire officials suspect could have involved fireworks. Santa Paula Fire Chief Rick Araiza said the incident was reported at about 2:29 p.m. as a vegetation fire in the vicinity of 6th Street and Virginia Terrace with nearby residences threatened.

“It caused a lot of excitement, it looks pretty spectacular when a palm tree catches fire… ” and Araiza said the burst of flames generated many 9-1-1 calls from concerned area residents and others in the area. Once on scene firefighters found that three palm trees were involved and burning fronds were sparking spot fires where the approximately 20-25 mph winds were carrying them.

Although 10 units were summoned to the scene and a California Department of Forestry hand crew working in the city showed up, it took two SPFD and one Ventura County Fire Department engines to extinguish the flames and spot fires. Other engines provided structure protection for worried residents and although there were no evacuations several residents moved their cars in case they had to leave in a hurry.

Araiza said homes, “Especially the roofs,” were at risk and other firefighters concentrated on structure defense. Other firefighters checked the backyards of residences located above the fire: “We didn’t want anything to flare up with the nature of the weeds right,” after days of extreme heat.

“It was on the hillside above the high school and it was a spectacular looking fire at first,” but Araiza said it was extinguished in about 15 to 20 minutes. Damage was limited to the tops of the trees “But they should come back.” Although SPFD personnel will investigate the cause of the fire, “The rumor we’re hearing so far is fireworks… we’re hearing multiple reports of fireworks in the area.”

And although “People said there were some kids” involved in the incident, Araiza said, “nobody is willing to say who or where or what.” Anyone with information is asked to call 933-4265 and ask for Asst. Fire Chief Kevin Fildes.