SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara police announced that they arrested one man on arson charges after determining he may have started at least five separate fires in the area of the Loma Fire Thursday night.
The Loma Fire started around 8:55 p.m. on the side of TV Hill at Loma Alta Drive.
Due to high winds and the speed of the fire's spread, multiple neighborhoods on and around the hill were evacuated. Santa Barbara police said they called in several off-duty officers to assist.
The sheriff's office also responded to help with evacuations and road closures. Hundreds of residents were asked to leave their homes.
Police said, around 12 a.m. early Friday morning, City Fire investigators noticed a suspicious person running down the lower portion of the hill and hiding in the brush between Loma Alta Drive and West Ortega Street.
The investigators met up with the person and detained him, calling police for backup.
When detectives and officers arrived, they continued to detain the man, identified as 23-year-old Victor Hernandez of Santa Barbara. He was ultimately arrested at the scene on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs and taken to the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Officers said, upon review, they found Hernandez had been a suspect in several other recent arson cases within the city.
As investigators interviewed Hernandez, they were able to establish a timeline placing him at the scene of the Loma Fire when it started.
Crews determined there had been five separate fires in the area Thursday night and that the Loma Fire was an act of arson.
Hernandez was booked in the Santa Barbara County Jail facing charges for arson of an inhabited dwelling (vegetation fire caused damage to a structure), five counts of general arson, being under the influence of a controlled substance and being in possession of narcotics.
His bail is currently set at $2,000,000.
This investigation is ongoing. At this time, the Loma Fire is 70% contained and has grown to about 10 acres in size.
Police said Loma Alta Drive will be closed from West Canon Perdido Street to Coronel Street for the remainder of the day Friday 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.