Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, June 21 @ 4:20 p.m.

Friends, Family Create GoFund Me Campaigns For Fishermen Who Lost Gear In Warehouse Fire

Local fisherman Christophe Nicolas said a fire at a warehouse on State Street late Wednesday destroyed about $200,000 in gear and equipment. | Photos courtesy of Christophe Nicolas


[UPDATED] Warehouse Fire Makes For Explosive Night at Neighboring Radio Station


Christophe Nicolas was in bed when he learned the storage facility housing his fishing gear was going up in flames.

Nicolas got the phone call at about 10:40 p.m., a few minutes after emergency crews were dispatched to the 300-foot warehouse on State Street.

When he arrived on the scene, Nicolas said, firefighters let him access his end of the building. The 45-year-old crab and salmon fisherman rescued a forklift, salmon tank and a salmon pole from the fire. Everything else, including 300 mint-condition crab pots, was destroyed with the rest of the building. Nicolas said his estimated losses are about $200,000.

“I would say it’s $200,000 and in gear alone, about $180,000,” he told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Friday. “It’s devastating because I had my whole life in all this, and when I started out I wasn’t as meticulous as I am now. In the last five years, I weeded out most of my gear and it looked absolutely beautiful, and that’s what burned.”

Nicolas isn’t alone. Three other fishermen — Allen Loretz, Jeremy Hurst and Wess Taylor — lost their gear as a result of the fire. The estate belonging to Richard Hagel also took losses, though Hagel’s daughter, Lalania Fink, said her family’s situation is different.


Fink said her family had been looking to sell her father’s gear. She said she’s working with her homeowner’s insurance to try to see what could be covered, but for Nicolas and the other fishermen, their livelihood was destroyed.

Fink created a GoFundMe campaign on Friday in the hopes of raising $100,000 to offset the losses Nicolas and the other fishermen took. But, she said, that’s a drop in the bucket.

“A good pot, just the pot itself without any other gear in the pot, is $300 each,” Fink said, adding that her father had a crab permit allowing him the use of 175 pots. “For me to say we’re trying for $100,000, it’s a drop in the bucket for what fishermen need to be able to go back out and fish.”

The loss to Nicolas and the other fishermen from the fire also impacts the deck hands they employ, Fink said.

Christophe Nicolas, and four other commercial fishermen, had stored hundreds of thousands of dollars in crab pots at a storage building that went up in flames Wednesday.

"They're not W2 employees," she said, adding that fishermen work for themselves. "So when something happens in the fishing industry when things are bad — the weather is bad, crabbing is bad, an area is shut down or they can't fish in a certain area, they don't make any money."

Nicolas’s sister, Gigi, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, also started a GoFundMe page to help her brother. Nicolas has been a commercial fisherman in Crescent City for about 25 years, she said. He owns his own boat, the Kelly-L, and employs two deck hands.

In addition to her brother’s boat, Nicolas said he maintains his own buoys, lines and gear. The lines are cut by the fishermen themselves, she said.

“One thing that I’ve learned from my brother over the years is the fishing industry has changed so much, and it has gotten so much harder to make a living, that your gear is everything to you,” Gigi Nicolas said. “You have limited times on the ocean and you got to be ready to go. Your gear has got to be in good condition.” 

Darrin Short, a battalion chief with Crescent Fire and Rescue, said Thursday that the goal for him and his firefighters shortly after arriving on scene was to save the “brand-new ready-to-go” crab pots being stored inside the building.

Short said he did a call out for an engine from nearly every fire department in Del Norte County shortly after getting to the State Street facility. When he got there, he said about 50 feet of the 300-foot-long building was completely involved.

Short and Crescent Fire and Rescue were toned out at about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday. They spent about nine hours battling the flames and stood down at about 7 a.m. Thursday. Firefighters were still dousing hotspots at about noon on Thursday, Short said.

The building was a total loss, Short told the Outpost.

On Friday, Nicolas, who had rented space in that building for about three years, said in addition to crab pots, one fisherman had stored a welding machine and a sand blaster inside the building. A mechanic had also rented space and was storing a few motorcycles and a few cars, Nicolas said.

Nicolas noted that this fire comes after the Pacific Fishery Management Council canceled commercial and recreational salmon fishing off the California Coast for a second year in a row.

Nicolas said he’ll try to rebuild since he still has his boat. But, he pointed out, he and other fishermen are still waiting on relief as a result of a recent disaster declaration due to the loss of last year’s fishing season.

“I’m 45 and I can’t start over just like I was 20 again. I’m not going to do it,” he said. “This is what I know how to do and I’m going to try to persevere through it.”


© 2024 Lost Coast Communications Contact: