[UPDATE 6:41 a.m.:] Motorhome on Fire in Garberville, Spreading to Presbyterian Church

fire at night in Garberville

[Top photos by Lindsay Griffin]

At approximately 3:30, an RV caught fire on Locust Street in Garberville. The fire spread to power lines above the motorhome and then, eventually to the Presbyterian Church.Fire at night in a small town
UPDATE 4:36 a.m.: The fire has consumed a large part of the Church as well as the smaller building that provides the Food Bank for Southern Humboldt.

Firefighters have kept this major fire from spreading to other nearby buildings at this point. It appears to be contained, says witness Angel Larsen who provided the below photos and video:


UPDATE 4:40 a.m.: According to the Incident Commander over the scanner, most of the fire has been knocked down, however, there is still fire in the attic of the church.

UPDATE 4:43 a.m.: According to reports from the scene heard over the scanner, an Asian male with long black hair threw a propane bottle from the RV onto the Church.

UPDATE 4:45 a.m.: One person has been arrested, according to what is being heard on the scanner.

UPDATE 4:52 a.m.: Below, with his permission, we’ve embedded photos and video from John Perricone’s Facebook page. Click on each square to enlarge the image and play the video.

UPDATE 6:41 a.m.: Garberville’s Farmers Market will be open with modifications. Some streets will be closed. Click this link for a map and more information.

UPDATE Sunday: The most recent information is here: ‘The Thing That Saved Our Town’: A Firefighter Describes Friday’s Fire in Garberville

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81 comments

  • Wow. What a huge fire for such a small town. Thank goodness the hard working firefighters saved the rest of the block.

  • This is a huge loss for the community. It will affect many of us in many ways. Now is the time for donations to the church and food bank.

    • To the food bank!?!?! Wtf. So we can feed more homless people who burn down churches? Really. Bums ARE the problem in g ville.

      • Please shut it. Before the cops disappeared and indesirables moved in mass to gville, we had “bums” who really needed and utilized the food pantry. You know, those jerks who got super messed up being in the us military and vietnam. I remember the guy who always had his friend he always talked with who was invisible to the rest of us. There are actually homeless folk who are truly ill and need help.
        The ladies at the food pantry started to see the huge amount of young able people using their pantry and dialed back how much they gave to who.
        Food pantrys are not the problem. Not having law enfircement available has been. Blaming kind people doing good work for the societal issues we refuse to face is lame. Get it together and see what you can do to be part of the solution instead of being a keyboard finger pointer. The blame game sux and helps no one.
        Perhaps researching what other towns are doing about these problems would be great. We are not alone. Like most everything else in south county, we cituzens will have to do the work since we always get left behind by the county for public services. The big one being that we’ve had no cops available overnite.

        And fyi the food pantry is just one of the many services that building brings to our community.

        • Good point. Im disturbed about the church. it offered a place of good. To all you social parasites, eat a bowl of D!&@S

      • Buzzard, you sure jump to conclusions. I have volunteered at food banks (not this one) and I would say 50% of the clients are single working folks and seniors on fixed income. The other 50% are folks on disability with only a few of them homeless. Try to volunteer someplace, it would do your soul some good.

        • If you haven’t volunteered at this one your comment is null and void. Why don’t you come to Redway or Garb and spend some time. I’m sure you will be enlightened.

        • Just because someone is homeless that doesn’t automatically make them a bad or lesser human being. It’s good that the food bank gives to single working folks, seniors and people on disability, but the implication that giving to the homeless is less important or somehow devalues the work of the food bank is weird to me.
          So what if they get food from the food bank? That’s what it’s for!
          Kindness and charity extends to all, regardless of social status. I’m sick of the animosity towards the poor in this community, it’s pathetic and sad.

          • I know a lot of poor people here, not everyone grows Ganga. It’s mainly entitled douchebag with more money than brains that say stupid shit.

        • I volunter up to two days a week. My soul is fine, oh well , my last post from buzzard (ever) yall have s good one. Good luck out there troll bridge CHUMP. Later daze

      • The locals are the problem tio

      • charles engebretson

        So you’re saying a homeless man did this?

      • Buzzard, that really describes you. Feed on dead rotting meat.
        You have no idea who benefits from the food pantry. How about a little education for the carion eater.
        The driffters that come to the pantry are only given the USDA commodity food.
        The local low income and elderly are given both the USDA food and the food donated by our local grocery stores. This not much food, but it helps our community survive.
        People like you are what is destroying this community and country. You open your uneducated and ignorant mouth with nothing more than a vile opinion and no facts.

    • Joan (Young) Barber

      Yes. My heart is devastated. Donations should come, as they did when the church was being built in the mid-1960’s, from everyone in the community, because it helped and helps strengthen the community to do so. If you love living there, pass the hat, donate from farm and agricultural profits, invest in the SOUL care of SoHum. ❤️

    • Advocate for volunteers

      I’d say now is the immediate time to set up a fund for the many volunteer firefighters who give so much of their time when they really need to be working to pay their bills. These folks give of their own time, money and being away from their families. This goes on and on for the volunteers. Maybe there can be a volunteer property tax exemption, or an income tax exemption, exemptions on vehicle registrations, or maybe a valid ID card that give price breaks on purchases. Something has to be done to encourage volunteerism in the fire service. Volunteers are Unpaid Professionals. They give and give and give.
      What’s right, it right!

  • Such a bummer. That’s our Tang Soo Do studio too. There is a steady stream of these rv’s pulling into town right now. The pullouts in Redway are full of tweakers in rv’s. They just shuffle from one to the next when the sheriff heckles them. We need an ordinance or something. Getting out of hand.

    • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.

      Only allow RVs that are no older than ten years old to park anywhere more than 12 minutes.
      Older RVs can be inspected by HCSO and issued a waiver.
      Any RV in violation is confiscated, cut up, and sold for scrap with the owner being given 10,000 hours of community service [Edit: I’m getting tired of having to edit out parts that encourage violence. I may just go for a ban if you don’t stop doing it. Kym]

      • GO FOR IT CHUMP, we shall see who wins the battle!!! My $.02 worth is on Kym permanently bans you!!! I personally can’t wait!!! You very seldom have a good word to say about ANYTHING!!! Also there is your undying belief that Cannabis is the Root of ALL Evil in this messed up world!!! So I say good riddance to you in advance!!! You want to start a war with Kym, go for it but be prepared to face the consequences when you LOSE!!!

    • It’s clear to me from the comforts of a city that Garberville and Redway need to be incorporated into a city not towns and start staff up with basic services cities have. Growing up is not easy but the time has come for these town to have services like a police dept to address the migrant population. Empathy. That church was one of the nicer buildings in town, what a shame.

  • Inevitable Outcome of Lawlessness and chaos...

    Maple Lane and town in general is a cluster fuck these days!!! Too many cars not enough street !! Is it even legal? What a terrible loss for our community.. Can we send the riffraff ” I live in my RV on public streets” vagabonds elsewhere somehow? This is so out of control!!

  • When are the cops going to stop letting these people and their rvs live in the street? This is devastating, and shouldn’t have happened. It’s time for the cops to do their jobs and keep our homes and businesses safe by keeping these people from taking up residence in a damn rv in the streets of town. I’m glad no one was hurt, but this is too much!!

    • Yeah this is a bummer but when was the last time you left Humboldt and wetn anywhere? People are living in RVs everywhere. And every rv owner and Parker isn’t a tweakers.

      • The only places I’ve been that resemble current southern humboldt are third world countries. The place is completely out of control and there is absolutely no regulation. It’s like a scene from mad max and the walking dead combined. It’s terrible.

        • Comparing southern Humboldt to a third world country is a bit of an exaggeration….

        • Have you been to so cal lately? Every walking bridge over the highways are tent cities.
          San Jose had the biggest homeless encampment in the state that they bulldozed.
          Head up the coast of Oregon, it really is everywhere.
          Seriously, look up news from all over the state. How the hell can anyone afford first last and deposit for a place to live???
          Ive met numerous folks in north county working in the fishing industry who are living in tents as they cant afford a place.

          • How can people afford first and last is by working and budgeting appropriately. We have become a drug and alcohol reliant society that feeds on consumerism. The fishing industry is a terrible example. Pretty much every fisherman I know is a drug addict or alcoholic of some sort. There are various things that people could cut out if their lives to save money but choose not to. Last time I checked smoking, drinking, and drug use aren’t part of the food, water, shelter needs. The system is being abused and enablers keep enabling. If you squander your money on non necessities why should I have to pay your way. Get a job and grow up.

            • Really do you think most of these people are worried about a first and second for a house. 90% are worried about there next high. We need to address the mental health issues people have after taking herion and meth for years.

    • (This comment is in regard to saying that RVs shouldn’t be parked on the streets)
      Part of the issue here is also the lack of affordable housing in the area.

  • Terrible. That church was the heart of garberville.

  • That is so sad 😭!

  • All vehicles are randomly igniting fire bombs, even RV s .
    It’s the end of civilization based on fossil fuels!

  • Is that the church near the radio shack? Very tight area. Good job to the firefighters!

  • The poor purple martins~

    Was this ‘motor home’ Bob B’s friend? Sad for the loss of yet another public access space but not too sad to see that motor home and the trash associated with it GONE.

    The long haired asian guy? Dorje?

    Quite the spectacle in the middle of the night….ahhhhh Garbageville, I don’t think I am gonna miss ya much 😀

  • So a homeless bum lights the food bank on fire and ruins it for the other bums? Classic.

  • Possibly, the highway patrol could inspect the RVs, for safety of equipment. The sheriff could patrol the town and check for people sleeping in there cars and Rvs. Seems as if A Rv has quite a bit of responsibility. Isn’t the highway patrol supposed to keep unsafe vehicles off the roads and streets. We do need a solution. Yeah we are aware of the problem. 🤑 I’m sure the owner of the Rv is no where to be found. As soon as they pull into town the cops might get to know them and let them know where to park. Very sad to loose the church and food bank.

  • Saw people in a rv in front of express liquors in fortuna yesterday screaming. Nice. So many tweeks around that store.

  • I certainly hope this will encourage the HCSO to be more proactive about the RV’s parking in various locations for days and months at a time. More people need to call & complain when one is parked on the street more than a couple of days altho I don’t think this particular one was there too long. Not sure if it is Bob’s friend’s RV because after at least 6 months in one spot I think he finally lost it for good. I, for one, have called on several RV’s on the streets. It took months to get one removed from Locust St. last year. Matt (Bob’s friend) parked in a certain spot for months and it took a lot to get the HCSO to move him along altho Estelle Fennell drove by it every week plus it impacted a very tight street corner the public bus had to drive by it every day.
    It might be a good idea to ask Estelle Fennel what she can do about the RV’s in town, on the street long term. Yes, we do need a place for the campers and RV livers to be, some of them are workers in our towns but if there was a collective space for them this sort of problem could be controlled more. Dean Creek has probably closed to long termers for the summer now and many cannot afford the cost anyways.
    Of course this could be deliberate by a disgruntled patron or such.

    • Estelle doesn’t care about So Hum. it’s the So Hum voters that get duped by these so-called politicians into voting for them. Paul Gallegos single handily ruined the justice system in Humboldt county but he allowed you to grow weed.

    • I heartily agree make Ms Fennel get off her lazy ass & do her job!!! Get the crappy things off the street, preferably BEFORE they burn to the ground!!!

  • Kym, Please keep us informed about fund raising efforts to rebuild. The preschool will need equipment, supplies and a new home, as will the food bank. The church is an iconic building and it serves our community well. This is a chance for the greater community to give back. My family will donating money and labor to rebuild.

  • I live on locust St and watched it all happen, can’t tell you how many times I’ve called the sheriff to get junk rv’s and abandoned cars towed. Not to mention the tweakers that are in them.

  • That really sucks, my heart goes out to parishioners of the church and all the other groups who use it.
    Why are RVs allowed to park almost anywhere they please in So Hum and sit there for weeks on end? How many have been set ablaze in Redway? Oh, this is unincorporated So Hum, never mind…

    • When is the local community going to start discussing the fire hazard caused by local residents setting fire to abandoned vehicles such as RVs? I have been here a year now, and have seen multiple torched vehicles in turnouts, especially along Briceland Road, which could have easily started wildfires. It’s not the homeless who are setting those fires.

      Did the meeting in Alderpoint which I heard about on this topic happen? If so, what was the outcome?

      Blaming newcomers for the affordable housing crisis isn’t slowing down the number of people who arrive here each summer. I hope that this unfortunate loss of a community resource will spur the long-term local community into committed action to better the living conditions here in SoHum. Fixing the roads would improve the quality of life here as well. We won’t get any of that done if all people do is blame others.

  • Steven Bridenbaugh

    The opinions expressed putting the blame on a homeless person belie a more likely scenario. I saw the word “arson” mentioned, as a possibility. With all the recent vigilante activity targeting the homeless in Garberville, it would seem more likely that one of these “citizens” attacked the poor man’s place of abode, and this misplaced morality set fire to the whole damn church. In that case, it would be karma, I think. The jury’s not out though. Of course, the purpose of vigilante acts is to prevent the trial from happening. Because for some reason, these people aren’t interested in true justice.

  • I am not sure why this is the fault of the cops. Just to educate people, the cops are not cops by day tow truck drivers by night. Nor are they garbage men/women (well actually they are in a way…). Yes they receive tons of RV complaints. They go out, tag them (which is the next legal action), and eventually tow them. They do it by the DOZENS and your expense. One of the problems is local tow companies do not profit from these calls and are very hesitant to respond. Scrap metal prices are down, yard space is limited, and who wants to deal with someone’s garbage? What the real problem here is multiple system breakdowns coupled with a community (not a majority, a minority) who empower “homeless” to show everyone what their rights are. Every business in Garberville/Redway is hiring! These people dont want to work, they want to eat for free and burn stuff because THEY CAN.

  • If there was any housing available in southern Humboldt, particularly affordable housing, we might see fewer RVs parked everywhere.

    There’s been considerable population growth in the past decade, and massive growth in the past 5 years or so; not just seasonal trimmigrants, but people who live and work here all year.

    There’s no place to live unless you are growing big.

    • So your telling me the 5 RVs that are parked on Redwood Drive in Redway (as of 8 a.m. today) are gainfully employed. What is gainfully employed? Waking around Redway all day in a stupor with a guitar.

    • Michael, where are you getting the water for “affordable housing”? Garberville can just keep up with what it has now, same with Redway. This is all caused by the Black Market Underground Economic Culture, that no one wants to talk about. Until that time comes, this is what you live with. Thank god GSD could provide enough water this time and their fire hydrants were working…

  • Its time to start mandatory drug testing to receive any kind of government benefit, this would solve a large part of the problem. We also need to implement a work for pay program, if you’re able body you have to earn your benefit payouts by doing community service. Why the hell should these people be able to lounge around all day drinking and doing drugs at our expense? it’s absolutely ridiculous!

    • It has been proven in more place than one that testing is a big waste of money. Most people you are eligible for government services are not drug users. The bulk of them are working people who can’t survive on the wages they are paid. Check out the millions that were wasted in FL on that witch hunt.

      • I have no problem with hard-working people that can’t make it getting subsidies, that’s what they’re for. I have a problem with the people that do nothing but lay around our town doing drugs and drinking alcohol on our dime. all you have to do is drive through town at any given day and it’s extremely obvious that there are plenty of them and that’s just Garberville and Redway. If you’re a hard working and responsible individual that just cannot make ends meet because of some reason or another the last thing you should be doing is wasting your precious resources buying drugs and alcohol, that money should be put towards food, clothing and shelter for you and your family.

  • so hum fuzz needed

    the rest of the county is tired of your bitchin’.. get your own fuckin’ town cops and that will solve all your whiney little problems. way too much crime down there to be relying on the county. oh,, but who wants the cops around when you’re a mega-grow thug haulin’ pounds,, right?? you deserve whatcha got in sohum because you made it that way.. you know and everyone else knows that y’all like it lawless down there.

  • Where do the boundaries stop? Who is next? This is Terrorism. Stop blaming the homeless for this. Cannabis greed has escalated this. A distorted mentality regarding who gets to do business in Garberville has prevailed. These tyrants have been given the green light and know that they face little to no consequences!

  • I’m not a church goer but still there’s no excuse to burn a church in the middle of the night

  • JustWantToHearTheEndoftheStory

    Let’s see, according to the postings so far: The Homeless are ALL veterans with PTSD, or ALL mentally ill self medicating with street drugs, OR ALL the homeless are worthless scum who should be run out of town OR the entire permanent population of Garberville are worthless scum. Anyone posting above going to volunteer to rebuild the church and food bank? I would, but I’m busy keeping McK dopers from breaking into my home…

  • Those R V’s with the portable hash labs are a real danger to all………
    Heard of one set up where the old dump used to be , off Alderpoint Rd.
    Scary right there

  • I’m so sorry about the church. Theirs great folks in this community to help rebuild.

  • Is this gonna be enough for them to stop letting them sleep on our streets where ever they stop to get their next high

  • RV with hash lab, kinda like breaking bad eh. At least they went into the middle of no where to cook there meth.

  • Maybe it’s the me to review all our options? Maybe Estell can point out the options on a public forum, like TRHBB.

  • To be clear. The church was not completely destroyed. The chapel and the pre school were only slightly damaged (thanks fire crews). The food pantry and the dining room are completely gone. How this happened is part of an ongoing investigation tho Kym did say earlier today that someone was arrested, according to what she heard on the scanner.

  • Kym, or anyone else who knows, please let us know what we can do to help. I read they need big barrels for broken glass right now. What else can we do? Thanks.

  • From what was herd from across the St. the 2 friends got into a fight in the rv with open flame around and got into the propain sys. somehow … nice how the homeless repay the nice people of Garberville that let them live on the kerb…. nice if they would use a pullout & not burn down Garberville .

  • Clearly butane bottles popping in the video b4 firetrucks got there.. What might that mean.?

    • They caught their cooking system on fire and threw the propane bottle of the t.v. & unfortunately threw it in the direction of the church

  • Thank you Firefighters for Saving our Chautauqua building. We are sad that we lost the foodbank and the church building. This community need to come together and figure out how we can create a safe community and not allow dysfunctional behavior in Garberville. Enough is enough- and this is enough!!! Compassion with values and accountability!!!!!!

  • A lot of the usual talk. What action do we want?
    Here’s what I want: A massive turnout in help and donations to rebuild the church. I’m betting that happens.
    An affordable place to park for people who live in RVs and work here, seasonally or otherwise. Drugging without working- no parking. No RVs on the street. Possible but not probable.
    Cannabis growers who bring in seasonal help PROVIDING HOUSING FOR THEIR SEASONAL HELP. Again, VERY possible, but not very probable. If you are a grower bringing in help and not providing for them, you are part of the problem and can be huge in the solution.
    A safe camp for non drugging homeless who want to work ( and those people do exist) and the working homeless who can’t afford housing on what they make, with showers so those people can be clean enough to QUALIFY for all those jobs we see posted. Everybody shouts “get a job!” Really, would you hire those folks with out a shower? Would you want to be served by that unshowered person in a store, restaurant or gas station?
    Possible? Yes, but how probable? Again I think not very probable, but it could help the workforce shortage around here.
    I think that really, we here in SoHum can do theses things and reap the benefits. It means work and organization and political action with the county and state. But doable relatively quickly if there is the will.

    Now, what about all those folks who don’t want to work, just want to hang out and drug around all day, cause disturbances, scream obcenities in front of children (although I hear QUITE A LOT of that from the “locals” as well) litter, and pass out on the square and streets? I personally WANT THEM GONE! But then they are in some other community causing the same problems.
    We should demand that the druggies get into a rehab program. Oh yeah, there aren’t any spaces in the VERY FEW SUCH PROGRAMS. We should demand that the cops get those mentally ill people off the streets and into treatment. Oh right, no beds in the VERY FEW SUCH PROGRAMS. Thank you Ronald Reagan. So, what to DO? These shortages were created politically and the solutions are political. Vote for people who want to fix this. Contact current legislators and supervisors and demand action for these kind of programs. This is not so fast but it does not happen at all if we don’t get noisy, pay attention, make it politically uncomfortable for elected officials. VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! IN EVERY ELECTION! Email, phone and show up at offices of your elected representatives and make your wishes known. Loudly, clearly, repeatedly. Start now. Keep it up.
    In case you don’t know me and are wondering, I vote, volunteer, donate, pick up trash and generally try to make all my elected representatives as uncomfortable as possible if they are not working to my satisfaction. I plan to continue.

  • One more thing, Cal Fire and our UNPAID, PROFESSIONAL, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS AND FIRST RESPONDERS ARE MORE THAN AWESOME! I watched them from a distance in the early hours of Friday morning while they saved our town. Thank you is so inadequate.

  • We had a big problem with an RV that was parked on Redway Drive for days. The folks inside yelled and screamed and fought and really disturbed the people who lived next to them. The sheriff was contacted. He yelled at them and told them to move on. They did, to another spot in Redway where they are not in front of a house. Last time I checked they were still there. It’s the same old problem with a different face. Do we create a camp for the folks who sleep in the bushes and keep them safe and sound, as remember we’ve had quite a few fires happen from homeless camps. Now do we create an RV park? I just can’t see locals want to fund this. We have extra police on the streets, it appears. I’d like to see them more active. But how do we ensure that these RV folks don’t have faulty propane systems? or that the campers don’t light stuff on fire? It’s all quite a challenge. I like what you have to say Donna, but the question remains. How? I certainly would like to help create a big fundraiser for all the volunteer fire fighters. I heard nearly all the local VFDs showed up to fight this blaze. Gratitude.

  • Rio – what happened at that community planning meeting that you organized at the Mateel a couple of months ago. I didn’t see any summary or conclusions. Would that help in this situation?

  • I’m really curious about the Community Planning Meeting too. I wanted to see what ideas people came up with. This may be the time to try again to bring all the sides together and hash things out. We are kind of on the same page right now.

    • The reports I heard about the ‘Community Planning Meeting’ said it was really a brainstorming session about ‘branding’ HumCo marijuana (TM).

      No community but the pot community…

      If you’re not in it, you’re…..

      Bye, SoHum~

  • Being a 30 year professional firefighter, Diana Totten made the perfect size up and attack. She went from the unburned structure to the fire. Perfect tactic, push the fire back into its self.
    Kudos to all of our firefighters!

  • So-are the scumbags that torched the church still in jail?

    • No one was arrested. The night of the fire, the scanner said that an arrest had been made but Lt. Swithenbank later told me that there had been none.

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