An Arcata man lost his life Saturday night trying to extinguish a blaze which broke out in his home on the 200 block of H Street.
According to the Humboldt County Coroner's Office and Arcata Fire Protection District officials, Stephen McGeary was found inside the residence at 210 H Street. Preliminary results showed he was attempting to put out the blaze.
The fire, first reported at 5:55 p.m., burned so hot in the home it hampered the search efforts of responding fire personnel. More than 27 firefighters from the Arcata Fire Protection District were joined by Humboldt Bay, Blue Lake, Fieldbrook, CALFire and Loleta Fire crews.
”If you watch some of the videos out there, it appears as though we are not doing anything as the house is consumed by fire,” said Arcata Battalion Chief Sean Campbell via press release. “That is not an accurate observation, as we are trying to save a life by putting our crews inside of the burning building to find occupants.
”In this case, we intentionally did not put water on the main fire because it would have burned our firefighters. This buys time for the search crew to try and locate and remove any occupants. All the outside crews can do is protect exposures and wait for the search to be completed”.
The blaze also threatened to spread to a nearby apartment complex as firefighters continued the search for an occupant of the burning home.
”We came really close to losing the apartment complex too. I had to make a decision, put water on the fire and prevent it from spreading to the apartment complex or don't put water on the fire and exhaust all efforts for a search,” Campbell said. “I chose to exhaust our efforts on a search potentially losing the apartment complex.
”Our engine companies did a great job stopping the fire in the apartment complex; unfortunately we were not successful in saving the occupant but it wasn't for lack of trying. The search team put their lives on the line as they tried to save a life. It's hard on our firefighters knowing they were not able to save the occupant.”
The inferno took an hour to contain and approximately six more to completely extinguish.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
”At this time the fire is being ruled as an accidental fire. It appears to have started in the kitchen and dining room area,” Campbell said. “There is no indication of foul play or criminal activity. We are working closely with Arcata Police and the Coroner's Office to determine the exact cause.”
”This was a tragic incident that resulted in the loss of a life,” Campbell added. “We hope that others will reflect on this incident and review their own fire safety measures to ensure that they protect their families and homes as we approach the upcoming holidays.”