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From the Field: Fatality in Arcata Vehicle/Structure Fire

Author: Jenny Williamson, Fire Prevention Specialist, Arcata FPD

Date: 2014-08-05
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Photos by Amy Sawyer Long, official photographer of the Arcata FPD.

On the morning of July 20th, 2014, Arcata (CA) Fire Protection District personnel responded to the 9000 block of West End Road, after receiving a report of a vehicle on fire in the garage of a residence with an occupant trapped.  The first arriving engine reported a well involved structure with heavy smoke and fire in the rear of the residence.  The firefighters of the first arriving engine made entry through the front door and began an aggressive search of the interior for the unaccounted for occupant.  Due to heavy smoke and fire the search team was forced out of the building.  At that time, Battalion Chief; Dave White ordered a defensive attack from the exterior of the building to knock down the fire.  After about 45 minutes to an hour the fire was knocked down and the fire crews resumed their search for the resident who they were sadly unable to rescue.    Chief White explains, “We had issues with knocking down the fire due to lack of water, there are no hydrants in this area and we had to shuttle water tenders from other agencies.”

Arcata Fire Protection District had a total of three engines, 1 water tender, 1 rescue unit, and 1 Battalion Chief on scene.  Other agencies that assisted were Blue Lake Volunteer Fire District with 1 engine, 1 water tender, and 1 Company Officer, Fieldbrook Volunteer Fire District with 1 water tender and 1 engine,  Humboldt Bay Fire with 1 engine and 1 Battalion Chief, Samoa Volunteer Fire District with 1 Engine, and Cal Fire who provided a hand crew to assist with overhaul and vegetation.  The California Highway Patrol and the Humboldt County Coroner’s office assisted with logistics.

Damage to contents and the structure are estimated at about $300,000 to $400,000.

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