Fire Officials Talk Big Blue Blaze and Blackout Safety with Another Shutdown Coming


With Humboldt County looking like it's headed toward another blackout beginning at 7 p.m., local fire officials are warning residents to be fire safe and be careful with equipment that produces carbon monoxide.

Arcata Fire Battalion Chief Curt Watkins said his and other local departments responded to a number of blackout-related calls for service during the Oct. 26 blackout that left Humboldt County without power. There were some small structure fires and most notably a fire at Big Blue Café sparked by a generator on the east side of the Arcata Plaza.

A generator reportedly caught fire behind Big Blue Cafe in Arcata on Oct. 27. - PHOTOS BY RYAN HUTSON
  • Photos by Ryan Hutson
  • A generator reportedly caught fire behind Big Blue Cafe in Arcata on Oct. 27.
Watkins said someone at the business had been operating the generator in a semi-enclosed alcove in the rear of the business when it caught fire Oct. 27. The generator fire spread into a common underground space shared with neighboring buildings.

“The damage is way, way more than is visible,” Watkins said.

In fact, the building has been red tagged, according to Arcata Building Official Nelson Membreno. And because the building shares electrical wiring with the three neighboring buildings to its north up to Ninth Street, Membreno said those have been red tagged as well. That means the businesses they house, Membreno said, which include Solutions, Moore’s Sleep World and Hot Knots, can remain open but can’t use electricity until the buildings are re-wired and inspected.

As for Big Blue, Membreno said, “they are going to have to do a lot of structural repairs,” adding that this impacts not just the café, but also the suite of offices upstairs.

In addition to urging residents to be fire safe — monitoring generators and not leaving candles and other incendiary light sources unattended — Watkins also urged folks to be careful using propane stoves, heating units and other power equipment indoors.

“We are seeing potentially deadly carbon monoxide levels in some homes,” Watkins said, adding that folks should make sure they have working carbon monoxide detectors and never use camping stoves, propane heating units or generators indoors.

Over at Humboldt Bay Fire, spokesperson Amy Nilsen echoed the need for caution using generators and other equipment that emits carbon monoxide. She said her department saw an uptick in people calling in reports of cooking or warming fires around town during the blackout, and advised residents with fires to have a fire extinguisher handy and make sure the fires are fully put out before heading to bed. She said the department also responded to three chimney fires during the blackout and urged residents who don't usually use their fireplaces or wood stoves to exercise caution by having them served prior to use, and making sure they know how to operate them safely. Finally, she said Humboldt Bay Fire is advising residents not to use candles as a light source, noting that house fires can double in size every 30 seconds, so it doesn't take long for a fire from an unattended candle to engulf a residence.

The Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services is advising that PG&E expects power to be cut in Humboldt County around 7 p.m. today. The extreme weather event prompting the outage is supposed to pass tomorrow morning, clearing the way for PG&E to begin inspecting lines and re-energizing the county, a process that could take days. Residents are advised to use the hours of electricity they have left to charge electrical devices, fuel up their cars, re-stock supplies and prepare.

See a Journal preparedness checklist here and find the full press release from the county copied below.

PG&E power outage Tuesday afternoon UPDATE

Recent PG&E updates have offered clarification as to the anticipated loss in power for Humboldt County. The county continues to remain within scope with a revised estimated time for power loss to begin at 7:00 pm this evening. Information from PG&E has been inconsistent and ever-changing. Residents are encouraged to prepare for loss of power to occur at any point and to remain out for another night. The estimated time for the weather “all clear” is currently at 7 am on Wednesday, October 30th. Full restoration may require an additional 48 daylight hours after the “all clear” is provided.

While power remains on, Humboldt County residents are encouraged to:

a. Restock emergency supplies including medication, food, water, fuel, etc.

b. Prepare for the cold weather by gathering blankets or alternate fuel sources

c. Charge all devices

d. Make arrangements for medical needs

e. Sign up for Humboldt ALERT at

f. Follow @HumboldtCountyOES on Facebook and Twitter for the latest information

Please note: The information of a 9 pm shut off occuring this evening is contrary to the information provided by PG&E during the update at 7:30am this morning. There may be some confusion due to PG&E having zones with different names, one of which is called “N. Humboldt” but actually pertains to Siskiyou County, not Humboldt County.

This release is intended to update the public on Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) activity information provided by PG&E. This office is not able to guarantee the accuracy of the information provided and the public should consider this release as general information and be prepared for a PSPS event that may have different timing and/or duration than predicted.

Temperatures are forecast to dip into the thirties this evening in the coastal and inland areas, with high twenties anticipated in the outlying areas.

Confirmed Community Resource Centers are as follows:

Humboldt Bay Fire Bode Classroom “Medical Device Charging Station” – 3030 L St., Eureka. Warming station, charging for medical devices, water, snacks

Tuesday, Oct. 29 – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department - 320 South Fortuna Blvd., Fortuna. Warming station, Medical Device charging only please

Tuesday, Oct. 29 – Opens at 8 a.m.

Eureka Municipal Auditorium - 1120 F St., Eureka. Bring your own charging equipment

Tuesday, Oct. 29 - To open when the power goes out to 4 p.m.

Humboldt County Library - 1313 3rd Street, Eureka, CA (PG&E-sponsored)

Tuesday, Oct. 29 – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Fortuna Fireman’s Pavilion - 9 Park Street, Fortuna, CA (PG&E-sponsored)

Tuesday, Oct. 29 – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Thomas Home Center - 1685 Sutter Rd, McKinleyville

Weekdays 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Blue Lake Rancheria - 428 Chartin Rd., Blue Lake

Tuesday, Oct. 29 - 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Hoopa Neighborhood Facilities – 11900 CA-96 (PG&E-sponsored)

Tuesday, Oct. 29 – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To learn more about PSPS, go to or by calling 1-877-9000-PGE. Sign up to receive location-specific emergency information through Humboldt ALERTs at Follow Sheriff’s OES on Facebook for the most recent updates.

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