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Bonfire may have sparked Calif.Tea fire

Nov. 19, 2008 at 9:07 AM

MONTECITO , Calif., Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Prosecutors are deciding whether to charge a group of people who left a smoldering bonfire officials think sparked the Tea fire in California, officials said.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said 10 men and women, ages 18-22, built the bonfire on abandoned property and said they thought it was out when they left, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. Embers, fanned by winds, re-ignited it into a swift fire that destroyed 210 homes and injured 25 people in the Montecito area.

"It appears this was the result of carelessness," Brown said, not a deliberate act to start the fire that consumed 1,940 acres. "They have been cooperative."

Brown didn't identify the people being questioned but did say they lived in the area and attended the same school, which he also declined to name.

The men and women could be charged with negligence or recklessness with fire, Brown said. The district attorney's office will decide if charges should be filed once the investigation is complete, Brown said.

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