Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Fatal Redwood Valley Structure Fire Kills ‘Non-Ambulatory’ Resident—Cause Under Active Investigation

CAL FIRE personnel extinguishing hot spots on the exterior of the structure [All photographs taken by Bradon Tripp]

A residential structure fire on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, took the life of a Redwood Valley resident. Officials are still investigating what sparked the flames. 

Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Chief Kerry Robinson told us the incident began around 3:40 p.m. with reports of black smoke emanating from a home on the first block of Colony Drive. Upon arrival, firefighters found a single-family, single-story, wood-construction home with “heavy fire coming out of the front of the house.”

Redwood Valley Calpella Lieutenant Jeremiah Juszczak and Firefighter Jose Mendoza exit the structure

Firefighters had been to the home on multiple occasions in recent months providing emergency medical care to a resident he described as a “non-ambulatory person.”

Knowing the resident could be within, Chief Robinson said crews worked quickly to conduct a primary search of the structure for any sign of life within. 

Meanwhile, Chief Robinson worked to delegate duties to the multitude of local agencies that arrived at the scene.

Less than 20 minutes after the initial dispatch was called, firefighters began their search of the residence. Sadly, these searches ended after the resident was found deceased. A coroner was requested to the scene.

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Mendocino Sheriff Matt Kendall could not provide any information on the identity of the resident describing the death as still “under active investigation.” 

When asked what caused the fire, Chief Robinson said fire investigators were still working to determine the ignition course. Ukiah Valley Fire Authority Battalion Chief Justin Buckingham, Mendocino County’s resident fire investigator, is looking into the incident.

We asked Chief Robinson about the emotional toll of the fatal fire, on both him and those he leads. He described the fire as a “horrible incident”. He added, “Our primary goal is protecting life, and we did everything we could.”

Hopland Fire Protection District Captain Cody Snodgrass and Ukiah Valley Fire Authority Captain Keith Quigley discussing an action plan while Ukiah Valley Firefighters Ben Paz and Tim Dresbach work on extinguishing hot spots in the background

After the flames were extinguished, he gathered up his firefighters at the scene to debrief and acknowledge the impact of the fatality. The morning after the fire Chief Robinson began the work to organize a formal after-action review where he and his crew can evaluate their work and reflect on the ordeal.

The tragedy was tempered for Chief Robinson with the sense of support and community he felt watching firefighters from neighboring communities converge on the incident to offer help. Ukiah Valley Fire Authority, Hopland Fire, Potter Valley Fire, Ridgewood Ranch Fire, and CAL FIRE answered the call for assistance. Chief Robinson said he was “super grateful.”

Editor’s Note

Countless Mendocino County residents rely on the swift action of our volunteer fire departments during fires, medical emergencies, traffic accidents, and more. They do that work with minimal funding. To support the essential work of the many volunteers that work with the Redwood Valley-Capella Fire Department, send a check to 8481 East Road, Redwood Valley, California 95470

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  1. The Press Democrat reported that the home had been deemed uninhabitable and there were others living on the property. Don’t know if they meant before or after the fire. Curious why none of the “others” attempted to get the occupant out. Fire department got there in three minutes and fire blowing out the front door!

    • Who said that there was people there or in the house..maybe it was to late..maybe they couldn’t get in cause it was on fire.there are several logical reason why..and who care if it was habitable or not..fuck these days with the way people try to rent place with super high rent..you can. Barely find a studio under 1000 a month..

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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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