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.
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.”
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.
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.”