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Known 'Chop Shop' May Be Start Point For Bear Fire

SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) -- New clues were surfacing Friday about the possible cause of the Bear Fire that has been burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Some witnesses say a chop shop right at the center of the fire could be to blame.

Since it broke out Monday night, the Bear Fire has blackened 320 acres and is 40 percent contained.

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The smoldering, smoky wreckage of dozens of burnt out cars lines the road of the property where investigators believe the stubborn wildfire may have first started.

"We're not ready to announce anything yet. But I do think there's some great leads we're following up on," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart. "And I do think we're going to resolve this thing in the next few days."

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The property that has become the focus of the fire investigation is well-known to law enforcement.

A dispatcher warned the first firefighters to arrive on the scene that the property, a known former parolee house, might be set with trip wires and booby-traps.

It was also the subject of a 2015 investigation into an illegal chop shop.

"I am aware that we did a case up there. There were a lot vehicles seized and all that," explained Hart.

The woman living on the property, Julia Cabibi, was arrested and pled guilty to possession of a stolen car and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Several neighbors who didn't want to go on camera said Cabibi was still living on the property at the time of the fire.

Cooler temperatures and light rain helped firefighter get the upper hand on the blaze.

The burning question that remains is not so much where, but how and why it started.

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