Source: Santa Barbara Police Department
On May 20, 2021, around 8:55 pm, numerous 9-1-1 calls started pouring into the Santa Barbara Police Combined Communications Center about a large vegetation fire on Loma Alta Drive. Multiple Officers and Fire Department personnel responded to the scene. The hillside, adjacent to Loma Alta Drive was ablaze and Santa Barbara City Fire requested assistance from allied fire agencies to help extinguish the fire.
Due to the fast-moving fire and proximity to neighborhoods, multiple off-duty Santa Barbara Police Officers were recalled to assist with evacuations. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Santa Barbara Police Department with evacuations and road closures. Hundreds of residents in the surrounding neighborhoods were evacuated.
Around midnight, City Fire Investigators noticed a suspicious subject scrambling down the lower portion of the hill and hiding in the brush between Loma Alta Drive and West Ortega Street. Investigators detained the suspect and called for immediate Police back-up. Officers, Detectives, and Fire Investigators detained Victor Hernandez (23 years old), a Santa Barbara resident. Hernandez has been a suspect in other recent arson cases within the city.
Hernandez was arrested on scene for being under the influence of a controlled substance and taken to the Santa Barbara Police Department while the fire investigation continued. There, Police Detectives and Fire Investigators interviewed Hernandez and established a timeline that put him at the scene of the Loma Fire. It was determined there were five separate fires in total last night. Fire Investigators believe the Loma Fire was an act of arson.
Hernandez was booked in Santa Barbara County Jail for 451(b) PC – Arson of an Inhabited Dwelling (vegetation fire caused damage to a structure), five counts of 451(c) PC – General Arson, 11550(a) H&S – Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance, and 11377 H&S – Possession of Narcotics. He is currently being held on $2,000,000 (two million) bail.
This investigation is still ongoing. At this time, the Loma Fire is 70% contained and has been determined to be 7-acres in size.
Loma Alta Drive will be closed from West Canon Perdido Street to Coronel Street for the remainder of the day and may possibly be closed until Saturday.
The Police Department would like to thank the community members of Santa Barbara for quickly complying with the evacuation order and staying away from the area.
May 20, 2021: Evacuations Ordered for TV Hill Fire