Saturday, June 3, 2023

Investigators Determine Last Night’s Structure Fire in Ukiah was the Result of Arson

Ukiah Valley Fire Authority firefighters attacked the structure fire [All photographs provided by Peter Armstrong]

Last night, Ukiah’s NorCal Dermatology located on the corner of South Dora Street and Observatory Avenue lit on fire and was quickly consumed as high winds buffeted the region.

Ukiah Valley Fire Authority Battalion Chief Justin Buckingham told us investigators determined that the fire was an act of arson suspected to have been a transient’s cooking or warming fire.

The flames, the darkness, a firefighter

Investigators learned from neighbors that a transient had been sleeping near the business in recent days, but could not offer any details about a description of the suspect. 

Cheif Buckingham expressed concern that transient traffic and the associated behaviors have become normalized to the point that the public is not practicing situational awareness. “I have seen numerous fires being lit by transients on surveillance footage, and people are just driving by like it’s normal. People have become numb.” 

Firefighters used their ladder to attack the fire from above

Chief Buckingham asks that residents near the destroyed structure closely examine their surveillance cameras for any sign of the individual involved in lighting the fire. If any member of the public has information or surveillance footage regarding the individual that was camped at NorCal Dermatology, call the Ukiah Police Department at (707)463-6262.

There are two types of arson, Chief Buckingham explained, reckless arson and malicious arson. Reckless arson is lighting a fire without considering the potential risk of spread and nearby combustibles that could result in unintended ignitions. In contrast, malicious arson is purposeful and deliberate.

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Firefighters dousing the flames

The Chief told us the fire was first reported by a civilian and Ukiah Police Department officers quickly arrived on the scene. Upon officers’ arrival, the east side of the structure was burning and running upwards into the attic. Investigators would come to find that fire started near a doorway.

When firefighters got there, they determined the building was vacant and began attacking the flames from the outside. Their efforts were thwarted when the high winds billowed into the attic’s ventilation vents quickly consuming the entire structure.

At that point, Battalion Chief Buckingham said the firefighting efforts transitioned to defensive saturating the exterior of the building with hoses and protecting nearby vegetation and structures.

NorCal Dermatology was the office of Dr. Henry DeGroot, but was in the process of being leased and not actively in business.

As the fuels dry and summer approaches, Chief Buckingham asks the public to “be aware of what is going on, take note of things out of the ordinary, and if you see something, say something.”

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  1. Because it is normal now!! The government has done such a poor job handling the homeless situation. As a ex homeless person we are offered little resources and end up in a never ending cycle of homelessness.. The housed people around us become numb because they have to. forever rolling my eyes at the police around here.

  2. “Cheif Buckingham expressed concern that transient traffic and the associated behaviors have become normalized to the point that the public is not practicing situational awareness. “I have seen numerous fires being lit by transients on surveillance footage, and people are just driving by like it’s normal. People have become numb.” …Police logs show that people are calling all the time about illegal campers and trespassers, the police logs show numerous encounters that end with nothing but maybe a lecture and the violators are on their way to the next place.. people are undoubtedly tired of nothing being done. The problem just gets moved to another location.

  3. Homeless are run off everywhere, everyday. No alternative but the shelter, a very dark place indeed. The homeless need a place to camp unmolested by police. It is not a crime to be poor but Mendocino County has made it a crime. This is a Jim Crow law and violates the bill of rights. Homeless are arrested on bogus charges and processed through a for profit court system.

    • Your statement is a joke. You obviously haven’t dealt with homeless around Ukiah. Business owners have to police their own properties because of the failure of politicians and judges. They have tied the hands of law enforcement. The homeless are aggressive and commit crimes on your property , at least in Ukiah. They are mentally ill, on drugs or both. It is time to deal with them and hold judges and politicians accountable. These are not people who lost their job and down on their luck.You ask how do I know, my son owns the property in this story. I personally have had 10 homeless encounters on this property, my son has also had many. Police have been called. These people argue with you about being on your property and upset because you won’t let them put up camp. Your thinking is why we have a problem. It’s not okay to homeless, if you can’t take care of yourself then you need to go to place that can monitor you. If you do drugs, jail should be your next stop. Instead we say it’s okay to be homeless and by the way here’s $600 a month. If you live SF they provide your drugs. All this woke crap has got to stop. What ever happened to common sense.

      • You have never been homeless and you have never stayed in a shelter yet you love to pass judgement on all homeless. Are there no prisons, are there no work houses? Ebenezer needs to sup with the ghost of Christmas

  4. I’am debating you in public and using my full name. No I have never been homeless or been in a shelter. I was not raised to depend on others and when life gets tough, roll up your sleeves and deal with it. Your last comment makes little sense and borders on stupidity. Yes, your thinking is why we have issues. In a way you’re condoning arson. It’s not okay to be homeless and commit crimes. Whether this guy meant to burn my son’s building down or not, he did. His judgement is clearly an issue, and is dangerous.

    • I’m the fragrant vagrant
      Catch a whiff of this bindlestiff
      Is it true you won’t share a pew with me
      Such a ripe guttersnipe
      Smelling sharp cause I sleep in a tarp
      You might hope I’d use some soap oh please
      If I sit to near on the bus
      You gag and wheeze make such a fuss
      If I should enter your store
      You fear customers might run out the door
      I suppose that your nose
      Informs you I’m one of those
      And your world must dispose of me
      You might think cause I stink
      That your god would not even blink
      As you press me to the brink so cruel
      to the tune Bird On A Wire by L Cohen

      • You’re not worth talking to after reading your last post. Plagiarism is all you have. I’m 60 years old, have had tough time and great times. Never asked anyone to support me or make excuses. Never been arrested or done drugs, I do drink a beer couple times a week. Just want people to give respect to each other. I would help anyone who needed help, but I will not help you if you choose to be homeless and commit crime and disrespect people and property. Have a nice day.

  5. Perhaps a fireman could respond, Are warming fires allowed under law anywhere in the county ever? I’ve seen homeless people on beaches next to them, We need to realize most homeless people are drug users or mentally ill. We need to provide clean storage containers for them to live with metal health services available to them, The time for them to take over cities has got to end,

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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