In Light of the Recent Dumpster Fires, Here Are Some Tips to Prevent Them

Press release from Humboldt Bay Fire:

Humboldt Bay Fire Department HBF Eureka

Over the past week, the Old Town area of Eureka has experienced a rash of dumpster fires. Several of these fires have done fire and smoke damage to buildings they were pushed against. Fortunately to this point the damage has been relatively minor but the fires did indeed have potential to extend to the exposed building and do untold damage to the structure and neighboring structure. Humboldt Bay Fire and the Eureka Police Department are working together to investigate the causes of the fires and to try and stem any future fires.

However, there are many things business owners can do to help prevent future fires from occurring. Listed below are several ways to protect your business from dumpster fires:

1. Lock your dumpster. A common thread in the recent fires is that they have occurred in unlocked, open dumpsters. Locking your dumpster makes it very difficult to reach the sometimes abundant fuel inside. Many businesses assign this duty to employees assigned to the closing shift. Please contact Recology for details on locking your dumpster.
2. Locate dumpsters a minimum of 5 feet (per the California Fire Code section 304.3.3) from combustible walls and locate them away from windows and other building openings. Should a fire occur in a dumpster, clearance from the building is a key component in limiting the spread of the fire. Windows and other building openings can provide the fire an avenue of spread into the structure.
3. If your dumpster is full where you are unable to close or lock it, consider calling for early pick up. Especially during this time of year, we see many dumpsters full to the point where the contents prevent securing it. This provides a higher than usual fire load and increases risk. If you or your employees notice the dumpster is reaching capacity call to arrange an early pick up.
4. To the best of your ability limit smoking or use of heat sources in the area of your trash containers. Post no smoking signs and be vigilant on maintaining smoking areas well away from trash collection areas.
5. Ensure trash/dumpster enclosures are locked as well. Many businesses have locked, gated trash enclosures remote from their building. Locking the access gate coupled with locking the dumpster its self is an extra measure of security that can help prevent fires.
6. If possible and equipped, utilize video security to watch areas where trash receptacles are. Should a fire occur, they can provide early warning to employees monitoring cameras, or can later help with investigation as to the cause of fires.
7. As with any suspicious activity, if you see something out of the ordinary around your trash dumpsters or storage areas call law enforcement to the scene to investigate.

If a fire occurs in a dumpster or trash storage area, call 9-1-1 immediately. Make sure to let the dispatcher know how close the dumpster is to a structure or if the fire is spreading. Though they may not seem hazardous, dumpster/trash fires may contain unknown hazards within including pressurized aerosol cans, burning items that produce toxic smoke, and high heat levels from the burning material within.

If you have any questions about how to protect your business and your neighbors from all types of fires, please call Humboldt Bay Fire at (707) 441-4000.



  • Another good round of good information, thank you Kym.

  • No, I’m not taking any “steps” to prevent dumpster ARSON fires. It’s arson, and it’s a dumpster, no big deal. Catch the dude. It’s probably a fireman as it is.

  • Lock your dumpsters: we now have people that are actually cutting off locks on recycle dumpsters (bolt cutters and little cordless power saws).

    5ft from building: many dumpsters are just in alley ways and 5 ft away places it smack dab in the middle of the roadway.

    Early pick ups: Have you ever tried to get an early pick up? Really? You have a pick up day and they might stick to it or move it w/o telling you.

    Keep heat sources away: I don’t know many people that keep a heat source going next to their rubbish bins and I don’t think exhaust fans get that hot … smokers, well that kind of speaks for itself :p

    Cam at the cans: And now you need to have security cams at your bins … most have them at the back doors but I guess you now need to have a designated cam for the bins.

    And we wonder why we can’t have nice things in Humboldt County!

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