Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tea Fire Decision from DA

The press release from the District Attorney's Office yesterday was carefully worded and cautious in it's approach. EdHat published the PDF.

The result of their investigation, however, will not sit well with everyone. It's hard to understand that the chain of events don't prove that the ten college students began the fire beyond a reasonable doubt. The will face criminal charges for the misdemeanors of criminal trespass and starting a fire without the property owner's permission. Also, their names will likely become known once charges are filed.

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Anonymous Unusual timing said...

Ron Prince, Santa Barbara's fire chief, has announced plans to retire. He was here just three years, after serving 12 years and nine years in two other cities. Does his retirement have anything to do with the Tea Fire investigation?

2/14/2009 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Smokey says said...

The fire was mainly in the county, not the city. Santa Barbara County Fire Department would have been the lead agency.

Since there are reports of multiple people entering the property the day after the students left, I can see where the difficulty of causation occurs.

Though it is unlikely daytime visitors would also start a new fire at this site, did they stir up embers or otherwise cause its further spread, whereas the original fire starters actually may have left the doused embers in a confined area.

That is what gets hard to prove and apparently there was insufficient evidence to proceed because of the later degradation of the chain of causation.

2/14/2009 10:05 PM  
Anonymous whats goin on? said...

umm, the only thing insufficient is the presence of leadership in the D.A.'s office---why no press conference? why no answering tough questions about this mega-high profile case? Why the faulty claim of needing proof beyond a reasonable doubt to file charges?

The D.A.'s office is a house of cards.

2/15/2009 9:21 AM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

It will be interesting to have published press reaction from Sheriff Brown or anyone from the multi-agency team that were reported to have determined the causers of the Tea Fire.

As for the speculation about the City's Fire Chief retirement, perhaps he sees the writing on the wall. When one first arrives in this community there is a sense of peace and tranquility and responsibility. In reality, calamity is just a sundowner away.

Our area is a tinderbox that needs broad support to create urban firebreaks. The Tea Fire experience is is clear. Many in the community will be riled to form a lynch mob well before "the community" will take any substantive and proactive action to prevent our current state and inevitable "Fire X."

So when Santa Barbara gets it's own Australian version of "Fire X," when the "Riviera Fire" burns through the Eastside into Downtown, TV hill, the Mesa and to the Pacific. Or, the other "Fire X", when the "LaCumbre Peak Fire" burns through San Roque and Samarkand and then progresses through all the assisting Statewide firefighting equipment and crews staged at tinderbox Earl Warren, through to Veronica Springs, Bel Air Knolls, Camapnil Hill and perhaps the Westside and Hope Ranch. Hundreds dead? Who would want to be chief of the FD or PD when the lynch mobs appear?

2/15/2009 9:48 AM  
Anonymous lefty said...

There is a good chance a few high-priced lawyers pleaded the difficulty of `beyond a reasonable doubt' with the DA.

That is something that, say, Eric Frimpong or those accused of the Bank Burning in IV were not lucky enough to have.

Normally the DA would have filed charges and let the attorneys of the accused find the arguments about how someone else might have started the fire.

Something is fishy here.

2/15/2009 10:45 AM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

I guess this is what's sooo wrong with blogs...listen up Smokey:

The lead fire agency for the Tea Fire was the Montecito Fire Protection District. The area is "unincorporated", but is within their response area. Most of the homes that burned were within the City of SB, and in the response area for SB City Fire. SB County Fire responded "mutual aid" to assist the other agencies that were quickly overwhelmed. Almost none of the Tea Fire area was the responsibility of County Fire.

Also...NO FIRE AGENCY on planet earth could have stopped this fire. It was 90-plus degrees, single-digit humidity, and gale-force winds that night. The fire stopped when the winds stopped.

Another small factoid is that arson is very difficult to prove. The DA can't present enough indisputable evidence to prove that the 10 young party-goers where responsible.

Lastly, Ron Prince is retiring at the age of 54 after a successful career that spanned 35 years. His department did nothing wrong that night, and to imply that he's being forced to retire because of the Tea Fire is ridiculous.

2/15/2009 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Did I miss something? said...

I don't see where anyone is implying anything about the fire chief. It looks like a blogger merely asked a question.

2/16/2009 12:31 PM  
Blogger spitfire squid said...

Since folks are commenting on the fire chief's retirement, I have a question. What kind of retirement package (pension, etc.) will he be getting from the city after three years?

2/16/2009 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Crystal Cruiser said...

Good question about the retirement package since it is paid for with public money. Should be public information and our new era of "transparency" this should be posted online.

Ask the mayor to make this and all public salaries available online, name by name. It is first line public right to know.

2/17/2009 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Just so that people understand how public retirement systems work: The City of Santa Barbara will no longer have to pay a dime of the retired fire chief's retirement. All of those payments were made as part of the chief's compensation (and the chief contributed to the pot as well). Once the chief retires, he will be paid by a retirement system (probably the California Public Employees Retirement System). This system is pre-funded by contributions from both the employer and employee and investment revenues. His retirement compensation will be a calculation of the number of years of qualifying service times a percent multiplier based on his age. Since the chief is over 50 and a "safety" employee (meaning fire, police or prison guard), he will probably get 3% times his years of service. So if he has a total of 20 years of service in the retirement system, he would receive 60% of his final salary (30 years of service would 90%). All that retirement liability will be shouldered by the retirement system, not the City. Of course, when the City hires a new chief, the City will incure the cost of funding his or her retirement as part of the compensation package. The rate of the City's contribution will be determined by the salary and age of the new chief. None of this is a mystery. It has been well publicized in dozens of articles.

2/18/2009 8:13 AM  
Anonymous Schools Daisy said...

When CALPERS runs out of money, they send a bill to the taxpayers to make up the difference. Taxpayers do pay for CALPERS retirements. They are permanently on the hook and the more benefits granted retirees, the more future money they have to cough up when times are lean.

During good investment return years they don't have to, but now they will. Public employee retirements should be personally funded and managed and all strings to taxpayers to make up for investment declines should be eliminated.

2/18/2009 10:42 AM  
Blogger lumberjane said...

So funny how people can bring up money at a time like this. I really do not care how long he has been in Santa Barbara. The man has been saving lives and homes for 35 years. He deserves whatever we can scrape up to give him. It is sad that so many homes were lost, but those men and women did a fantastic job, and I am sure that when a fire is heading straight to your home and these people show up to save the day, you will feel indebted for life. What they do is priceless, and some of you should be ashamed.

2/18/2009 11:58 AM  
Anonymous TaxinYakson said...

I believe the job description for which these people get paid handsomely says "fight fires". Along with early retirement packages.

No, I am not ashamed to make all public employee accountable for taking my tax dollars. I pay them and they do the work they agreed to do - fight fires.

2/18/2009 9:16 PM  
Blogger lumberjane said...

To suggest that the job description of a Fire Fighter is "to fight fires" is demeaning and dismissive. They are First Responders. When a little boy is hit by a car on his way to school, there is no fire, but there will be firemen. When a young woman loses control of her vehicle on the 154, there is no fire, but there are firemen. When an elderly man walks away from his home absentmindedly, there is no fire, but you can bet the local fire department will be involved in helping him find his way home. You may squabble all you like about how your minor tax contributions are being spent, but do not devalue their role in our community. The Chief was here for 3 years because the department decided to hire a seasoned veteran rather than someone younger with less experience.

2/19/2009 5:10 PM  
Anonymous udamskippy said...

Lumberjane has it a bit wrong. The Prince was hired because the union decided that a fresh look from the outside was needed. They worked with the City to go outside. There was plenty of experience inside. It turns out that it was a gamble that didn't pay off. As far as leadership during the Zaca, Gap and especially the Tea Fire, please. I guess it was all those "younger guys with less experience" that stepped up, cause it sure wasn't him.

2/20/2009 7:49 AM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

He's done a great job.

2/20/2009 8:50 AM  

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