A Manhattan Beach, Calif., man was cited on suspicion of starting a fire in the Oceano Dunes Saturday (Oct. 6) that burned about 10 acres and led to the evacuation of dozens of campers, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
The man faces a possible fine of about $400 in addition to being billed for the cost of fighting the fire that started around 1 p.m. at the dunes, according to County/Cal Fire Investigator Andy Andersen.
No one was injured during the blaze that was contained three hours later, according to fire officials.
About 200 people were evacuated from the tent campground closest to the ranger station around 1:30 p.m., according to Tony Villareal, supervising ranger at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.
The man was camping and lighting model rockets on the beach, said Andersen. “The fourth one got caught in a tree and the fifth one in dune grass.”
Model rockets – plastic rockets that descend by parachute – are not legal at the dunes, said Villareal.
The man was interviewed and cited. An estimate for the cost of fighting the fire was not immediately available.
About 65 firefighters battled the blaze that consumed dune grass and brush, according to County/Cal Fire Battalion Chief Bill Fisher.
It burned east toward the campground where David Sanchez and his family were vacationing from Bakersfield.
“They just told us to get out, leave all your equipment there and get out,” said Sanchez as he waited for permission to return to his campsite. “Right there on our site the ashes were staring to come down.”
Many campers drove out of the campground to park on nearby Pier Avenue, said Villareal.
But campers such as Don Dockum, of Orange County, who was in a neighboring campground, said he wasn’t concerned about the fire.
“Until you see the ashes, we’re not too worried,” said Dockum, who added that he had to evacuate recently during a fire at Big Bear Lake.