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Fire Notes and Photos

LAST WEDNESDAY NIGHT, as if a harbinger of Thursday’s catastrophe, a chimney fire at a home next door to Boonville's Methodist Church was miraculously confined to its top floor by fast-responding Boonville fire fighters. But then…the very next day….

A MAJOR STRUCTURE FIRE that started in a residential rental bungalow on the east side of Highway 128 next door to AV Market just after noon on Thursday, escaped into three neighboring buildings before firefighters could control it. By 5pm four buildings were a total loss, including the popular Pic-N-Pay convenience store that provided supplies and a laundry service to many Boonville locals, as well as the neighboring Lizzby’s Restaurant and Bar, formerly the storied Boonville Lodge.

RESPONDING FIRST were one AV fire engine and two CalFire units. But by the time they got going the fire had broken through the roof of the structure where the fire started, which was driven by a stiff 10-15 mph breeze blowing out of the southeast. 

A LARGE CROWD gathered across the street to watch the flames jump from that first roof to a neighboring home and then onto the roof of Lizzby’s Mexican restaurant and then on to the Pic-N-Pay convenience store (all one building with a common flat roof) as flames burst into the overcast sky. 

THE OCCUPANTS of all three buildings escaped unharmed, several of whom had to sit on the curb across the street from the fire watching firefighters vainly try to save their homes and possessions. A light rain began as the incident unfolded, but failed to slow the by now raging blaze. Three buildings were fully engulfed in flame, with the roof of the first residence collapsing as the roof of the second residence became a raging inferno. 

BY 2PM, a small army of fire equipment had arrived from all over Mendocino County — CalFire, AV Fire, Comptche Fire, South Coast Fire, Elk Fire, Ukiah Valley Fire with pumpers and water tenders and support vehicles. The large number of fire engines parked on Highway 128 to battle the blaze created a significant traffic blockage, stranding drivers in both directions confused about what to do. Some tried to get through using the Fairgrounds back road but didn’t know where exactly to go or what the bypass route was.

DOWNWIND neighbors at Tom Town and the Farrer Building were worried that embers might be blown off the Pic-N-Pay roof into the neighboring eucalyptus trees and ignite fires at Tom Town and the ancient wooden two stories of the Farrer Building. But by mid-afternoon firefighters had stalled the progress of the roof fire to Pic-N-Pay, which continued to burn as firefighters pumped water from above and below through the entrance doors of the store. 

BY 3PM the Pic-N-Pay roof was still burning as the sign over the building identifying the Boonville Lodge and Restaurant, now Lizzby’s restaurant — dramatically tipped and then collapsed onto the roof and down into the burning structure, threatening the power and utility pole which services the north end of Boonville. PG&E had already cut power to the pole, subsequently reporting that 16 customers lost power during the fire.

TRAFFIC was backed up in both directions on Highway 128 and up on the Ukiah and Mountain View roads from about 1pm until 5:50, when vehicles began to be routed through the west end of the Boonville Fairgrounds via Lambert Lane and then back out onto 128. At 3pm the CHP posted there would be about a five hour traffic wait until 128 could be re-opened. By 6pm traffic was still backed up on Highway 253 but soon after began to slowly flow in both direction through Boonville.

BY 3:30PM it was clear that four buildings, three small residences and the Pic-N-Pay/Lizzby’s complex, were a total loss. The Pic-N-Pay store’s outer shell was still intact, but  the store’s interior had been gutted. The destroyed buildings were all made from flammable old-growth redwood slab framing dating back to before WW2.

THURSDAY’S terribly destructive fire understandably attracted a large crowd of onlookers, several of whom commented that if the fire had jumped into the eucalyptus trees at Tom Town, the ancient wood structure of the Farrer Building could have gone up, taking Tom Town with it. And then on to the old brewpub and on down the highway blown by the off-shore wind. Which would have happened if this fire had occurred on a windy September afternoon. 

ONE of the houses on the south side of P&Pay, now in ashes, dates back to the first settlers in Boonville, the Windom family. The original structure  was hidden behind a brick facade some time later, probably in the 30s or 40s. 

BY EVENING, at least thirteen people were known to be displaced and Lizzby's Bar and Restaurant destroyed. Pic-N-Pay was also a total loss. A third small residential rental unit behind and attached to the two front bungalows was also burned to the ground. Several other structures and residential trailers further back were saved.

THIS BOONVILLE fire is the worst in the Anderson Valley since October of 1997 when the famous Mannix Building (built in 1945) was destroyed by a huge fire, displacing a half-dozen people who lived in the apartments above the ground floor commercial space where the Anderson Valley Advertiser was housed for many years. 

THE DEVASTATED properties destroyed Thursday are owned by David Johnson of Sonoma.

BOONVILLE RALLIED to help the families burned out by today's fire. Donation buckets began to appear around town by evening Thursday and several people recommended extra donations to the local Foodbank at the Methodist Church.

IN DOWNTOWN BOONVILLE there are three hydrants at the Fairgrounds which were used to refill both pumpers and tenders during Thursday's fire. Outside of Boonville, trucks can refill at various water storage facilities, including the department's tank farm in Philo and others on Signal Ridge, Rancho Navarro, etc. plus at a number of vineyard ponds which are fitted with firehose compatible valves. Typically, the department's three tenders either provide water directly or refill the pumpers on scene. As with a fire like Thursday, hose lays and hookups can get confusing and time consuming at busy fire scenes. 

THE FIRE CREWS drained the Fairgrounds down to its minimum reserve fighting the fire on Thursday. They then started getting more water down the road from Pennyroyal's hook up. Tens of thousands of gallons all told were expended fighting last night's blaze and keeping it from getting worse. 

AV FIRE CHIEF Andres Avila said Friday that the cause of the fire remains "under investigation." But it definitely started in one of the homes, not the restaurant.

CHIEF AVILA said it spread fast because once it jumped to the roof of the second unit — all the remaining downwind structures had a common roof — the fire was burning on the underside of the roof/rafters/insulation fanned by the wind and spread along the underside of the roof to the restaurant and then to PicNPay. The Chief said firefighters had trouble getting water on that part of the roof until it burned through and out, in spite of all the water they pumped. Their work in back however, did save those buildings.

THE PAKISTANI OWNERS of Pic 'N Pay are a couple with two honor roll children enrolled in the Boonville schools. Mr. Pic 'N Pay long ago gave up explaining his name to his many customers, settling for "Chon." The ‘Chons’ not only lost their store, but they lost their home next door. Very nice people whose losses are lamented by all of us in Boonville.

ACCORDING to our DBA records, Lizzby’s restaurant was owned by Alejandro Gutierrez Silva, 14161 Hwy 128, Boonville, CA 95415.

IN 2010 PIC-N-PAY’s DBA said:

The following persons are Doing Business As:

PIC N PAY PARTNERSHIP DBA PIC N PAY, 14161 Hwy 128 / P.O. Box 489, Boonville, CA 95415.

Iqbal Singh, Barinder Kaur, 2838 Coleman Glen Ln., Santa Rosa CA 95404; Shaukat Ali, 1595 Herbert St. #11, Santa Rosa, CA 95401. Signed: Shaukat Ali

ANA PENA and her four children lived in the rental unit next door to where the fire started. We are reliably informed that Ms. Pena had no household insurance and she and her family are in the most need of the more than a dozen displaced persons. 

A LOCAL WRITES: “We're dropping donation buckets off at all the AV wineries. They'll be there though the end of the year and most likely longer. Instructions and details have been communicated to the appropriate people. Hope this helps.”


Donna Pierson-Pugh posted: 

Dear Anderson Valley Residents and Beyond,

I am sure that you are aware of the terrible fire that burnt three houses in Boonville on Thursday, but has also left the residents behind Lizbby’s and Pic N Pay homeless. The greatest need is housing for three and possibly five households. All families have temporary placements but there is a single mom with four kids who will need a new dwelling by Monday. If there are trailers or mobile homes that are available, this could provide temporary to long-term solutions.

Tax Deductible Donations can be made to Sueño Latino and the donations will be shared between the families who lost their homes in the fire. The donations can be dropped off at the Boonville Firehouse or mailed to PO Box 601, Boonville, CA 95415. If you would like a letter please include your mailing address.

Replacement of clothing, personal hygiene items and other belongings is a need for the families whose houses burn, and gift cards to stores or gently worn clothing in the following sizes would be appreciated:

Men’s sizes Small (for a teen), Medium and large Men’s Shoes 8, 10,

Women’s sizes Small, Medium, Large Pants: 0, 4-5, 8 Women’s shoes 5-5.5, 6 – 6.5, 7

Child (girl) Large Child’s (girl) shoes 5

At this point the families don’t need home furnishing or kitchen supplies as they are staying in other people’s homes.

Thank you for your generosity! Anderson Valley knows how to solve problems and take care of its people.

“My family and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and love we have received from this community. It is absolutely amazing and we feel so loved. We will post what we need but we are not the only ones affected by the fires and any and all help is welcomed and supported. Anything you give us that we don’t need will go to others affected by this fire. Everyone in this valley has made this tragedy a little easier to deal with. Thank you for everything. We love you.”


On Thursday, December 5, a fire erupted in downtown Boonville, California. The fire claimed local businesses and residences, and has displaced several families.

Three local families lost everything in the fire, including two family businesses. This fundraiser has been set up to raise money to help with immediate needs for these three families. Funds raised will be distributed equally to the three families to purchase food, clothing, toiletries, or any other supplies or resources that they need.

We are setting the goal at $15,000 in order to raise $5,000 per family.


This morning a group of people affected by Thursday's fire in Boonville (or liaisons representing them) met to discuss their immediate and short term needs. Some families lost all of their possessions and some did not, but all have to relocate.

Surely other needs will come up as they assess damages and losses, but at this moment, here are some things we can do to help:

Donate money and ask others to do so

Cash and check donations can be made to Sueño Latino and dropped off at AVFD & AVCSD

THE GROUP of community members and families impacted by the fire will be meeting regularly at the Adult School. If you have other information or other relevant resources that might be helpful, please feel free to contact the Adult School at 895-2953 or James Snyder, Principal, Anderson Valley Jr./Sr. High School

THE ANDERSON VALLEY Fire Department got lots of help battling the fire, which began at 12:30 Thursday afternoon and saw firefighters still working the devastation at 11pm. In addition to Cal Fire, Anderson Valley was supplemented by the Elk volunteers and firefighters from Ukiah, Comptche, the South Coast Volunteers, Hopland and CalFire. 

THE BOONVILLE FIRE has left a large physical hole in the middle of town, huge losses to our friends and neighbors and leaves generations of vivid memories associated with the legendary Boonville Lodge, site of everything from the hilarious to the tragic. If those ashes could talk! 

ON-LINE COMMENT: "I wish we had people who could help, like a nonprofit or better. I have three spaces (small houses) that need repair but I'm barely holding on to my land much less invest in making them more livable. I've been to the shanty places in the valley and I was shocked at first but it's so hard to find a place here. We need farm people and workers but seeing the big picture of low paid jobs and cost of living is untenable. Any ideas other than the usual bandaids and temporary situations?"

MOSTLY AGREE, especially about B&B's, all 62 of them in the Anderson Valley, including my old place on Anderson Valley Way, once home to as many as a dozen persons, all of whom paid what they could, which wasn't much, to maintain the property at a reasonably safe and sanitary level. I've argued for years for a local ordinance that required winery and vineyard owners to erect housing proportionate to their minimum annual labor requirements. 

TO BE FAIR to the local branch of the wine industry, several of its local stalwarts have provided worker housing, usually for its year-round employees. And the County doesn't make industry housing simple to achieve, as several wine business owners have explained to us. The March election might, just might, bring us a fully functioning board of supervisors, the first one in years, if ever. If that were to occur, sensible housing policy might at last be adopted.

MARK SCARAMELLA NOTES: I am aware of a couple of local vineyard owners who indeed have tried to the right thing by applying for permit to build worker housing, but the County’s (and the state’s) onerous construction and permit rules, restrictions and requirements for ag land apparently make it very hard to navigate the process. 

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