Official says Jordan not directly responsible

8/12/2005 - NBA Atlanta Hawks Phoenix Suns + more

Officials want to speak with Michael Jordan concerning a criminal arson investigation in which the former NBA star could have knowledge, according to Santa Barbara County (Calif.) Fire Department investigators.

It took 250 firefighters, two air tankers and three helicopters more than 4 hours to contain a 25-acre fire last Saturday adjacent to the Rancho San Marcos golf course where Jordan and about a dozen friends were playing golf.

"While we do not believe Mr. Jordan is personally responsible for starting the fire, our investigators have been told that members of his party could have started it, and we would like to speak to Mr. Jordan or his managers to learn more about their group," Santa Barbara County Fire Department Spokesman Keith Cullom told ESPN Hollywood on Thursday. "So far, we are not getting any cooperation from him.

"Michael Jordan was not at the hole where the fire started, but it is believed he would know who was involved. While we're not asking Michael to pick up the phone and call us, it would be appropriate for his managers or representatives to assist in our investigation, and so far they are not."

Estee Portnoy, a spokesperson for Michael Jordan, said Thursday: "As the authorities have noted, Michael Jordan had no involvement in the fire at Rancho San Marcos Golf Course in Santa Barbara, California. He was golfing at the golf course when the fire occurred and he praises the actions of the firefighters. He is also pleased that no one was injured in the fire."

Whomever started the fire faces criminal charges, which could include recklessness, Cullom said.

"Cost recovery is something that is also likely," the spokesman said, adding that the total cost of fighting the fire has not been tabulated but would "be extensive."

Jordan was in Santa Barbara last week as part of his Jordan Flight School Basketball Camp, which was held at UC Santa Barbara.