ARCATA, Calif. (KIEM)-The second barn fire to ignite on Mad River Road in Arcata Bottoms had a marijuana operation inside of one of three barns that succumbed to the fire.
The cause of Sundays’ fire is not the same as the first barn fire that happened August 23, according to Battalion Chief Sean Campbell.
“This was a large indoor marijuana grow, there were signs of a hash lab, and also portioned as a barn,” he said.
The initial call – a debris fire on U.S. 101 near the Mad River Bridge.
“So, the crews thought they were going to another fire, the same transient camp for another debris fire,” said Campbell.
However, when crews arrived, the call had been upgraded to a vegetation fire.
“The directions to where the fire still wasn’t clear to the crews that were responding but when they looked out in the bottoms, they saw a large column, and then they saw the flames,”
The call upgraded again – this time – a structure fire, and with fire departments stretched thin – the two-man crew and their fire chief assessed the scene.
“They came across a very challenging scene, they had people on the property that were leaving in mass numbers and they were working their way down the drive-way,” he said.
Firefighters arrived to three barns burning out of control – seen in video taken by Arcata Fire, along with two other structures about 50% involved, and threats to a residence and another barn on the property.
“With a two-person crew, that’s a lot, it’s a lot to handle. At that point dispatch for a full response with some mutual aid.”
That response prompted more water tenders – it took about two hours to get the fire under control, the barns that hadn’t burned were used as living quarters.
“The barn was full of tents and living areas for the trimmers, who we believe to be to be the large number of people that were leaving the scene in a hurry,” he said.
Campbell says, according to law officials 20-to-30 people were seen leaving the property.
As far as the cause, it will probably never be known – only that it was a human caused fire.
“We don’t believe it to be intentional, and it’s not spontaneous combustion, like the hay. Completely unrelated, two different causes,” he said.