Homeless Man May Have Been Set on Fire

A homeless man, known as Jack, sleeping in the stairwell of the Job Market on 4th and K in Eureka may have been set on fire a little after 1 a.m. today. Eureka City Council member Kim Bergel was driving home and saw the aftermath of the incident. She agreed to tell us what she knows.

Bergel explained that Jack told her “he heard a loud sound and then his sleeping bag was on fire.” Jack managed to get out of the bag and Bergel said, “He seemed okay. [However,] he said the back of his head was singed a little.”

According to what Jack told her and police, he believes someone actually ran up and set him on fire.

Bergel noted that this could have been the result of just an argument between two people–Jack said he’d had a serious disagreement with a man yesterday–or even something accidental might have occurred such as falling asleep with a cigarette or it could have been something more serious especially in light of a recent incident in Arcata where a man sleeping on a church porch appears to have been set on fire and, as a consequence, sent to a burn center in serious condition.

Acting Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson said that his department is taking this seriously but is still in the preliminary stages of the investigation. “We don’t have…any indication there was a connection to the Arcata incident,” he explained. “I urge people to be calm and be careful about drawing inferences.” However, he said, “We’re taking [this incident] very seriously…If it is connected, we will spare no investigative resources.”

Watson said that he has an investigator working on this today who will be looking into whether there is any video footage of the fire.

Bergel agrees with Watson, “We don’t need to get people up in arms until we have more information. Was this ‘just’ an argument between two people? or is it something even more serious? With all the hate around lately, it really is hard to determine…[But] we need to look at all the information before we jump to conclusions.”

Jack has been given some assistance, she said. “The fire department gave him a $25 certificate to buy a new sleeping bag.” But, she said, Jack crawled back into the same bag on a different part of the porch to continue sleeping that night.

“These marginalized people are surviving stuff every day,” she said. “They are pretty tough.”

Nonetheless, Jack lost his extra set of pants in the fire as well as his sleeping bag. Bergel said she tried to make sure that Jack was aware of all the places that he could get help today in town.

Below is an embedded map of where the fire occurred.



  • It could have been any of several things, but let’s go with the headline that’s going to feed that as fact into the minds of those who just glance at the headline. We Can Do Better! Leave sensationalism to the Lost Coast Outhouse.

      • Obviously, some don’t read well!!!

      • It might have been better simply to say the man was involved in a fire from yet to be determined causes. The article said that the cause was unknown at this point. No need to provide fodder for those seeking to pound the drum for their own personal agenda. Certainly, if he set himself on fire, there would be a whole different group of people being self righteously vocal than if he was set on fire.

        I wonder about fires though. There was that string of dumpster fires. Then the fires at abandoned buildings. Then human beings set on fire. Could we have a fire bug accelerating his activity?

      • Could have led with a headline, “Man May Have Set Himself On Fire With Cigarette”. But that wouldn’t be nearly as enticing.

        • The point of a title is to let people know that there is something they need to pay attention to. There is the possibility here that two homeless men have been set on fire. Now, that hasn’t been definitively proved and it might not be true but, it is a piece of information that I’d want to know, especially if I were homeless or loved someone who was homeless. It is good to know that it’s a possibility and it is good to know that it hasn’t been proved. I thought my title covered that duality neatly.

  • This was a crime scene so what and the hell is Kim Bergel doing interfering in a crime scene. She is always sensationalizing her self . I’m surprised she didn’t post a selfie or make a vedeo. Maybe she thinks this kind of stuff is going to get her reelected. But it is only an embarrassment to the city and the city council. Maybe this person is one she calls her constituents.

    • Evidence Mangling Technicians were already on scene so no harm no foul.

    • Wow really…. Maybe try keeping your negative judgement to yourself…. Disgusting.

    • Funny how people can get the same information and see it totally differently depending on their original perspective. I had just been thinking how concerned about her community Bergel was to have stopped so late at night to check in and then she stayed for a while talking with the victim to make sure he had his needs met when she must have been cold and tired.

    • Sensationalizing herself? I see Bergel everywhere at events I attend. She is an involved and concerned Councilwoman. She clearly takes her role very seriously and is a wonderful representative for her town.

    • The misadventures of Bunjee

      Dude, really? You posted the same “Kim sensationalizes herself” spiel over at LoCo. What do you care that she’s out late? She has a life too. And besides, she gets out in the public and does more than say, Arroyo, who has been pointed out on other sites as “minimal work, maximum exposure”.

      But then again, you can always cast a vote against them next election cycle.

  • “with all the hate around lately…”, life is what you make of it Ms. Bergel, and is a reflection/refraction of our own actions.

  • People read there beliefs into into a story, if we went strictly by the facts no one would smoke and everone would wear seatbelt. The 2 recent events could be unrelated, but everone still needs to know what’s going on i see people sleeping in the streets day and night . You can see campsites at almost every bridge and freeway on ramp I

  • The sign of worse things to come setting bums on fire what’s next ?

  • I guess the nice thing about making anonymous racist jokes is that when you completely fail to be funny, you can claim you were “just trolling” and trying to “trigger” people. It’s the perfect format for angry cowards.

    • Looks like the “joke” already got moderated. Nothing of value lost.

      • If it was as bad as you seem to think then, good riddance to BAD rubbish!!! If I want to read anonymous racist rants, I’ll go over to the Weather Page at LoCO!!! Some of the Trolls lurking there do an excellent job of spewing hatred!!!

  • Kim Bergel just “happened to drive by”? Again? Are you kidding me?

    She must have a police scanner and is rushing to any scene where TV cameras are to push herself to the front.

  • how nice. the fire department gave him $25 for new sleeping bag. when are people going to get it that giving them stuff keeps them sick. why get clean when you get free medical, food, money. i see these people standing outside Starbucks smoking cigs now $7 to $11 a pack and drinking coffee. been to burger king lately. now they cant lock there bathrooms so they just do what they want. what about the guy who owns that place. i wont go there anymore. im sure other feel the same. there are recovery house that will take them if they want to get clean. they have choices. im not talking about the ones who have serious mental problems. im talking about the who choose to get high instead of pay rent. fuck them. maybe the fire might have been bottom for this man. we will never know.

  • Given a gift certificate, but kept they burned bag? So, which arm did the cash from the sale of the gift card go into? Maybe it got lost at the bottom of a 40oz?

    Stop giving handouts and start helping. Until it is more uncomfortable to be homeless than it is to get your $#!+ together, this problem is going to get worse.

    • It’s amazing that the sleeping bag store was closed for the night.

    • I don’t know how much more uncomfortable it gets than having fire burn your sleeping bag and your pants….If making someone uncomfortable would help them miraculously get a job and a house, I’m pretty dang sure that a fire would do that.

      If it doesn’t…then maybe making folks uncomfortable isn’t the answer?

      • kym your miss the point. i don’t think we need to make him uncomfortable. hes doing that already. but i dont think we should keep being codependent cleaning up his mess. that’s his job unless you want to do it. im in recovery. i pick them up. take them to meeting . buy them coffee and give them referrals to programs. give them my phone number and im all ways available if they want to get clean. if not up to them. what to do you to be part of the solution. something else you think i should do. im not giving them money for free.

        • Those are all wonderful and I’d like to say I do as much. Thank you.

          Still, Scott was saying, “Stop giving handouts and start helping. Until it is more uncomfortable to be homeless than it is to get your $#!+ together, this problem is going to get worse.”

          Whatever your position on helping the homeless under ordinary circumstances, it seemed to me that someone who had just had his sleeping bag and his extra pants burn was in need of a little help. A $25 gift certificate seems like it was hardly a huge handout under the circumstances.

        • just me,

          good on you with your recovery. i wish you continued success with that recovery. i’ve seen too many that could not do what you have. please be at peace. you know most alcoholics die drunk. recovery can mean life.

          i was a alcohol and other drugs counselor and educator at a coed 32 bed residential treatment facility. resident age rages between 18-87. of course, a very high client turnover as is the nature of the addictions and those with gorilla’s on their back.
          many there were old chronic’s with dual diagnosis, too many were end-stage alcoholics, brain damage and/or the physical damage. about 10% court committed for 6 to 12 months at a time, and then can be renewed and court ordered again 6/12 months.
          one man had been re-committed for 4 yrs before i began working there, and i when i left two yrs later he remained. even had drunks that come in after drinking on their newly transplanted livers.
          behavioral health in the addiction fields work quickly takes its toll on workers. burn out rates are incredibly high, as are the employee turnover numbers in area of work.

          several senior staff counselors (in recovery themselves) i worked with were hard-line, rigid, lacking compassion, were judgemental, and did not treat their varied clients consistently. they had became ineffective in their practice and caused harm to some clients due to it.
          actually, their burned out behaviors looked remarkably like angry and fearful dry drunk episodes.
          i saw that it’s common in these systems to find the staff are sicker than the clients.

          i’ve have done the research and have witnessed that those who work HARD daily and sincerely on the 12 steps, and have kinship with others doing/living the 12 steps are the most successful in achieving and maintaining sobriety, as opposed to all other methods. and it’s free.

          meetings are good in that a person will hear others speak of their experiences while using and realize their addiction really is made up of the same symptoms and produces the same outcomes across the board with others with those addictions. this is why those meetings are so redundant, and also proof that addictions are proven illnesses and not moral weaknesses. specific symptoms of the disease are retold ad nauseum in the stories of how addictions allowed loss of control in lives.
          i also know that there are many people who, due to their mental health issues, can not tolerate being in any setting where there are a gathering of more than several people under any circumstances, be they friends, family or strangers.

          we all know there are no resources available for those needing medical intervention and psychological help which could facilitate those people being able to begin going to meetings, and to begin to feel comfortable enough to “keep coming back, it works”.

          can you agree with my following personal opinions?
          “humility. gratitude. self-honesty. grace. respect. empathy…helpful in maintaining long-term recovery.
          arrogance. offensiveness. egotism. martyrdom. condemnation. anger. rigidity. fear…bad for recovery.”

          and finally, personally i think you need to rework on steps 4.,10.
          and personally, i find your contempt towards not only the man who was burned, but also those who are questioning humanity because of this man’s situation, very off-putting.
          then, to bring up your membership in with 12 steps affiliations…it puts me off wanting to go to a meeting where i may encounter what i see as a righteous, shamming and rigid group judging me – like you have here to these anonymous strangers.
          thus the 11th tradition.

          and recovery is not the same as sobriety, is it?

    • Scott nice to see something in the solution

  • Sure make ’em uncomfortable until they hit rock bottom where they have no choice. Some do choose to stay on the streets and are willing to accept their circumstances. Why? Perhaps because they see others more in need. Perhaps they know the game and have been interviewed/assessed/intaked without results enough times that they do not want to play anymore. Perhaps they have followed the rules, played the game, and this is where they are. Perhaps they have been told they are worthless, lowlife bums so many times they believe it. Perhaps they want to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but instead find themselves fired because they are homeless. Without housing life is being told you can’t sleep here, don’t sit there, don’t associate with this person or that, no food today because someone else did something, move along, move along, move along. On good days it’s hearing well this is ok with me, but if I get a complaint I got to respond…

    • The way to mostly avoid being in a constant state of reactioning to negative situations is to work like hell to avoid the negative situations. Some can’t because of mental health issues, a few- a very few- really had bad luck but frankly most are created by the individual themselves either through addiction, foolishness and combativeness.

      Society has painted itself in a corner where self inflicted and continuous injury is to be treated as being a victim. And society is not allowed to protect itself from the damage to everyone else that these victims impose.

      In a position of having heard stories from ‘bums’ (although this is true for many non-bums too) for many years, I know you have to learn to filter them through reality as you know it. If someone has an endless litany of stories about how it was never their fault, while they imply that others not in their position are just ‘lucky’ ,the rational thing is to ask why they see it that way. If you stop taking their interpretation of their life at face value, you soon see that most of their troubles are, even when not caused by themselves, at least made infinitely worse by constant poor reaction to every bit of opposition life hands them. The rest of the world avoids it, steps around it or gets over it. They, on the other hand, pummel it, curse it, try to get even and are not able to get over it ever.

      Helping people does not mean sympathizing with irrational ideas or demanding that everything they do that is damaging must be accommodated because they are ‘unfortunate.’. It means looking honestly at what they do and making it easier for them to do what is useful for themselves in the face of them resisting it like heck.

      • think out loud. your right give them a phone number of a recovery house or na aa. im 25 years disabled, 20 years clean and sober and haven’t been homeless for over 20 years. i also worked in recovery for 15 yearsi know these people i was one of them i got clean when i got hungry and got tired of living off other people. most dont give a fuck. only want a free ride to get high. i know i did.

  • Wow many platitudes, I would add that this guy is at rock bottom.
    $25.00 isn’t much but it’s a gift, no strings attached.
    Somebody should drop off a sleeping bag for him.

    • spankie. good idea. why dont you do it. get him some smokes too. oh you just tell other how to spend there money and time.

  • Double speak outside of cheek

    I am constantly amazed at the hateful negative words that spews out of people. No wonder things are screwed up in this world. No one deserves to be burned up while they are attempting to sleep, homeless or not. Frankly I wish Kim Bergel was supervisor for my district. At least she cares. The rest seem to be self serving. A little kindness and compassion goes a long ways. Fostering hate can only lead to sickness within yourself.

    • Double speak outside of cheek… I agree the lack of humanity is one thing, and perhaps a better solution is needed but what I see a lot of is just hateful, hurtful, remarks that can do nothing to help the problem, however can fuel another to take it to another level…its really opened my eyes to how sick the so called normal are.

  • only help those who are trying to help themselves ( legally )
    We can’t help ALL the people.

  • It’s so sad that people do this. The man was hurting no one. For the love of God he was sleeping. It’s bad enough it’s cold out.😭

  • #whatfire?nofirehere!

    Thanks again Kim Bergel for minimizing the situation. You the law maker that has made all the ordinances that makes people like Mr. Jack without a house illegal to live in your city. Your a real gal… Maybe you and Sierra Jenkins can team up and chase the people you made into criminals in your city on one of those rhinos from serious Capt. Watson?

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