Eight Homeless After VW Apartment Blaze – May 6, 2012
Arcata Fire Press Release
On May 5, 2012, at 10:43 a.m., Arcata Fire Protection District (AFPD) responded to a reported structure fire in a multi-family occupancy in the Valley East area. Dispatch received the first of many 911 calls from residents and neighbors advising the dispatch center that an apartment complex was on fire and the fire was already well involved with heavy, thick black smoke coming from one apartment unit.
Battalion 8203 arrived at the scene within 5 minutes and reported heavy fire conditions in one unit with extension to adjoining units. Engines 8215 and 8217 arrived less than 8 minutes after the first 911 report was received. Crews began an aggressive fire attack in an attempt to search for occupants and hold the fire to the involved unit. Within minutes, the firefighters inside of the burning structure had to retreat because of a partial roof collapse in the main fire unit. Ironically, E8215, from the Mad River fire station, was completing a fire safety inspection of a similar multi-family occupancy on South G Street when the alarm came in. The crew from E8215 reported heavy black smoke visible from their location.
This fire had a significant head start on fire crews, which allowed the fire to spread into the attic making extinguishment difficult. Interior firefighting crews reported thick smoke conditions and high heat inside of the burning apartment. Fire crews had to discontinue their interior operations when the roof of the main fire unit collapsed. They switched to a defensive firefight then transitioned back to an offensive attack after reevaluating the structure for safety.
One occupant sustained burns to his arms and face and was flown to UC Davis for treatment of his injuries. An updated report indicate the victims injuries are not life threatening and a full recovery is expected. One firefighter sustained heat exhaustion while fighting the blaze and two others sustained minor injuries.
A total of 41 career and volunteer firefighters and two support personnel fought the blaze for approximately two hours before gaining control and containing the fire. Mutual-aid was received from Humboldt Bay Fire, Blue Lake Fire, Fieldbrook Fire and Westhaven Fire. Arcata Police Department responded with their Mobile Command Vehicle to assist with the operation.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. There is no indication of the building being used for illegal drug activity as indicated in some reports. During the investigation, fire crews discovered numerous smoke alarms had been disabled with batteries disconnected. This may have contributed to the fire growth and delayed report.
Battalion Chief Campbell reports, “It is imperative that smoke alarms not be disabled at any time as they are designed to detect fire in the early stages.”
The estimated loss on the structure is $505,697 and the content loss is estimated at $303,418.
Battalion Chief Campbell reports, “Hopefully our community learns two things from this incident; first, smoke alarms should never be disabled and they need to be checked for proper operation at least once a month and second, renters insurance costs approximately $.32 per day. It is money well spent.”
The American Red Cross- Humboldt County Chapter assisted the eight tenants who were displaced from this fire. They were all given temporary lodging in a local motel support to get their lives back in order. Please support the American Red Cross and their efforts to help those in their time of need. Information on how these families can be helped is available through the Red Cross at (707) 443-4521.