Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA BOTTOM – An abandoned farmhouse formerly owned by Arcata ranchers Ike Diaz and Tym Demello burned up this afternoon. Presently owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the property includes outbuildings and a barn, which weren't affected by the house fire.
Battalion Chief Curt Watkins said the fire was first reported at 4:30 p.m., and that its origins are as yet unknown. Caltrans plans to use the property this summer as a staging point for equipment that will be used for wetlands mitigation as part of the Eureka–Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project.
Last week, Caltrans told the Union that the deteriorating, hazardous buildings – frequently used for illegal camping and dumping – will eventually be considered for demolition, but that any determination was at least a year away. Today's house fire could have some bearing on the agency's plans for the site.
The deteriorating condition of the property has distressed Arcata old timers and Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary users alike. Overgrown, slathered in graffiti, the site is strewn with litter from illegal dumping. Sporadic cleanup efforts by citizens and Caltrans have had no lasting effect.
Last week, an apparently abandoned RV sat out front, having been tagged by Arcata Police on Jan. 23. Tonight, the front of the property was lined with recently cut trees and other lumber.
Photos taken over the past several years track the site's deterioration (see below).
APD News Release
Structure Fire - Arcata
Arcata, CA – Feb. 2, 2020 – At 4:36 PM Arcata Fire District responded to a structure fire at 2202 Old Samoa Rd, Arcata. Initial 911 calls reported heavy fire in a barn. Units first arriving atscene discovered heavy fire from several windows of a vacant farmhouse adjacent to a large barn. Initial fire attack was limited because most doors and windows were boarded up. Once access was made the fire was quickly extinguished. The residence and adjacent barn have been vacant for some time and there has been frequent use by transients.
Initial investigation indicates the fire’s area of origin is in the interior of the house. Significant fire damage occurred in all areas. The Investigation is continuing.
Arcata Fire District responded three engines, one water tender, one Battalion Chief, threeVolunteer Firefighters and the Volunteer Logistics unit for 13 personnel. Other agencies atscene were Arcata Police Department, PG&E and Caltrans. Humboldt Bay Fire and Fieldbrook Fire provided district coverage while Arcata units were committed to the fire for approximately two hours. Damage to the structure and contents is estimated at $150,000
Arcata Fire District would like to thank our neighboring fire agencies for supplying resources as this emergency evolved. The interoperability of state and local agencies and ability to back up each other is an important part of the Humboldt County fire service. We would also like remind everyone that as winter continues extra vigilance with fire safety is always needed.