Fire Started by Welder Burns 7 Acres; 2 Hurt

THOUSAND OAKS - A welder without a fire permit ignited a brush fire that ran up a steep hillside Thursday in the North Ranch area of thousand Oaks, burning about seven acres and drawing near four hillside estates before firefighters halted it, authorities said.

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An 18-year-old construction worker and a 36-year-old security guard were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, paramedics said.

The welder, Jose J. Martinez, was working on a wrought-iron fence about 12:30 p.m. when the fire began outside a house being built at Deer Haven Court and Westbend Road, Ventura County Fire Capt. Charles Sitton said.

The fire was under control about 70 minutes later and did not seriously threaten any homes because of previous brush-cleaning efforts, he said.

The fire was under control about 70 minutes later and did not seriously threaten any homes because of previous brush-clearing efforts, he said.

Frank Cardenas, a landscaper for North Ranch County Club, said he turned on sprinklers that quickly doused flames in one area but the fire raced up a steep hill beyond it.

Lance Winslow, 30, who own s a mobile car-washing business, said he hurried to the home on top of nearby Heritage Place and joined others in fighting the fire with garden hoses.

Martinez, working without a permit, did not have an ample water supply to put out any wayward sparks, the fire captain said.  If he or his employer, Mares Wrought Iron of Ventura, are found negligent, they could be held liable for the firefighting costs, estimated at about $4,000, Sitton said.

-by Greg Rippee

Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times, October 21, 1994. 

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