Fire cause investigators scour Tick Fire source

Human remains were discovered in Canyon Country near an area affected by the Tick Fire Saturday. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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In the daily Tick Fire updates posted by fire officials, one column on their checklist — alongside homes destroyed, acres burned, residents displaced — has remained unchanged since the fire began a week ago: its cause.

Each Tick Fire update reports the same status when it comes to cause: unknown.

Now that containment of the Tick Fire nears completion, arson investigators are expected to poke through the charred rubble inside Tick Canyon for clues.

Lt. Sue Burakowski, who heads up the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Arson/Explosives Detail, joined arson investigators assigned to the Los Angeles County Fire Department on a recent survey of the fire source.

The lead investigator on a search for a cause of the Tick Fire is Fire Investigator Tim Carillo, of the county Fire Department.

Carillo was out of the office all day Wednesday, but Burakowski and others close to the probe provided some insight into what caused one of SCV’s most damaging fires.

“The area where it is believed the cause of the Tick Fire began is on federal land,” Burakowski said Wednesday.

“We went up there together and worked side by side,” she said. 

The Tick Fire began near the intersection of Tick Canyon Road and Summit Knoll Road, said Arson Investigator Jermaine Johnson, who works with Carillo. The source is at the southernmost tip of uninhabited Tick Canyon, where the first homes appear.

“I was out there and I was on the scene later on that day,” Johnson said, referring to the day investigators from both the Fire Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department went to the origin of the Tick Fire.

Finding the cause of the fire is expected to take time, investigators from both agencies said.

Both Burakowski and Johnson were asked about widespread reports on social media, speculating about the cause.

Each investigator said what the daily status sheet has been saying: the cause remains unknown.

And, the arson investigators are not the only ones looking for answers.

A forensic team of investigators with the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner have questions about a human skeleton found in the Tick Fire’s wake.

“Right now, the decedent is listed as Undetermined Doe No. 20,” Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the coroner, said Wednesday.

Unidentified human remains are tagged John Doe if they’re male, Jane Doe if they’re female. They’re called “Doe” when the gender has not been determined.

One of the many questions coroner investigators want answered is the gender of bones found in the Tick Fire.

“Law enforcement placed a security hold on the case,” Ardalani said, meaning the only information she can disclose is the case number, the name of the decedent, a date of birth and date of death.

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