Santa Ynez Man Found Guilty of Arson in 2021 Caballo Fire

Caballo Fire that occurred on September 6, 2021 and burned almost 70 acres. Steven Randall Nicholas was convicted on February 28, 2024 for starting the fire (Photo: Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

A jury has found a Santa Ynez Valley man guilty of starting a multi-acre vegetation fire in 2021.

Steven Randall Nicholas, 63, was convicted by a jury of a felony violation of Penal Code 452(c), Unlawfully Causing a Fire on Wednesday.

Judge Denise Hippach presided over the one-week jury trial in Santa Maria. Nicholas now faces three years in state prison.

The charges arose from the Caballo Fire which broke out on September 6, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. in the Santa Ynez Valley. Santa Barbara County Firefighters first responded to the scene of a brush fire in the 3300 block of Caballo Lane, north of Los Olivos.

Mandatory evacuations were issued just a few hours later to neighborhoods into the area as the blaze was growing uncontrollably and a temporary evacuation center was opened. A 2nd alarm call was issued with additional aircraft called in to assist due to structures being threatened in 93-degree heat and 15 mph winds.

Around 6:00 p.m. that day, County firefighters announced the forward progress had been stopped. Full containment was reached two days later.

The Caballo Fire burned 70 acres across 14 different properties. One barn was damaged.

Fire investigators determined the fire was caused by a weed and vegetation burning operation. Nicholas was accused of using a Mag torch to burn weeds on his property on Avenida Caballo without a burn permit. With 96-degree heat and 22% humidity, a small burn became uncontrollable.

Deputy District Attorney Madison Whitmore led the prosecution team. Captain Snodgrass, Investigator MacCready, and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department conducted the investigation of this wildland fire.

Related Articles

 September 6, 2021: Caballo Fire in Santa Ynez
September 14, 2021: Caballo Fire Caused by Propane Torch

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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