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Ward Fire in Goleta now 100% contained, Santa Barbara man arrested for arson

GOLETA, Calif. - Firefighters have made progress on a wind-fueled brush fire that broke out late Wednesday in Goleta.

The Ward Fire was first reported around 11:40 p.m. at the south end of Ward Drive, near the La Goleta Gas Storage Field. The area is near More Mesa and both ranch and mobile homes.

Nine acres had burned as of early Thursday morning, and one person had been detained in connection to the fire, although it was unclear why.

The fire was 100% contained as of 2:43 p.m. Sunday.

Deputies have made an arrest in connection to the fire – the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office announced around 2:30 p.m. Thursday that deputies arrested a 30-year-old Santa Barbara man for arson.

The sheriff's office said that deputies first arrived to the scene when the fire broke out Wednesday night and a witness told them that the man who caused the fire was possibly still in the area.

Deputies searched the area, and around 11:57 p.m. found and arrested the man for obstructing a peace officer (misdemeanor), arson (felony), and possession of a controlled substance (misdemeanor), according to the sheriff's office. He is being held at the Main Jail on $20,000 bail.

According to Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Scott Safechuck, strong winds fueled the flames when the fire first broke out, pushing the fire into nearby trees.

An evacuation warning was issued, but was lifted around 5:00 a.m. Thursday.

Safechuck said about 65 firefighters stayed at the scene through Thursday morning, including crews from Santa Barbara County Fire, Santa Barbara City Fire and Montecito Fire.

At one point, trees made a direct fire attack too dangerous because there were concerns the trees could fall.

Just before 8 a.m., Safechuck said firefighters were working among 100 foot unstable trees, using chainsaws to cut down and reduce ember showers that winds can carry outside the fire line.

"Embers from the wind were carrying  a quarter mile out  so we had the potential threats to these structures.  We wanted to make sure we kept it out of More Mesa," said Safechuck.

Resident Trish Holden rode her bike through the area and said she was evacuated. "Well thankfully the authorities came by and knocked on our door very loudly and woke us up. We put ourselves and our dog in the car.  You don't know what to think about at that moment. "

The sheriff's office said that a Santa Barbara County Fire Investigator will be conducting the full investigation into this fire.

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