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HomeNewsFire destroys legendary Blairsden businesses

Fire destroys legendary Blairsden businesses

Buildings fully engulfed when firefighters arrived

In the early morning hours of Friday, Sept. 15, Graeagle Fire Protection District responded to a call for a fire at two local legacy businesses, Gumba’s Family Pizza and the Village Bakery. Both businesses were housed in the same historic building in Blairsden on Bonta Street. 

Graeagle Fire Chief Ed Ward was the incident commander, and reported that he was first on the scene of the incident with dispatch occurring at 3:38 a.m. Ward arrived on scene at approx 3:45 a.m. followed shortly thereafter by Chief Bret Russell of Beckwourth Fire Department and Chief Steve Munson of Plumas Eureka Fire Department. A Plumas National Forest engine and chief officer responded to the fire at 4:30 a.m. at the request of Plumas County due to threat to nearby vegetation.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation, but Ward reports that there are no obvious signs of arson being the cause of the tragedy.

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Ward said mutual aid had been requested of Beckwourth Fire and Plumas Eureka before he had even left the station. “Gumba’s was fully engulfed at the time of my arrival,” he said.

Shortly after Ward arrived, sounds of glass shattering could be heard, followed by the sight of the roof caving in and explosions from the carbon dioxide tanks used at Gumba’s at the bar. “The fire traveled from Gumba’s to the bakery,” Ward said.

An employee rolling dough out in the bakery that morning was able to safely self-evacuate the bakery before it too became fully engulfed in flames. Plumas Sierra Rural Electric sent out a crew to come shut down the power and they stayed until nearly 9 a.m., Ward added.

First responders worked through the night to maintain a water curtain between the bakery and the Blairsden Station building next door, using deck guns to keep up the constant spray. The effort to contain the blaze ultimately depleted the Blairsden water system, leading first responders to utilize water tenders from Quincy Fire Department and Graeagle Land and Water. The tenders went out to Graeagle to fill up with water through the many hours of the incident, keeping the fire from spreading. According to Ward, the Blairsden Station has sustained some heat, smoke, and water damage, but did not catch fire, due to the efforts of first responders. 

The aftermath of a blaze that burned Gumba’s Family Pizza and The Village Bakery. Photo by Dianne Buckhout

Matt Cruse, owner of Gumba’s Family Pizza, said the fire “caused a huge loss to our community,” a sentiment being loudly echoed by hundreds on social media, with memories of both Gumba’s and the Village Bakery flooding local groups with outpourings of support.

“Every morning while making dough we watched numerous cars pull in, buy their sweet morning treats from the Village Bakery, and head out for their day,” Cruse said. “The thought of not seeing that every day is haunting.”

Cruse and his wife Elizabeth, both beloved members of the community, bought Gumba’s from locals Chris and Bonnie David in 2017. Since then, the duo made countless friends by serving their community. 

“I know that the building is gone, but I also know that we will have those friends, our customers, for the rest of our lives,” Cruse said. “Our community has come with open arms consoling us and our employees. It is so nice to be part of a community that supports everyone so much. We appreciate everyone!”

The couple is now actively looking to find new jobs for their displaced employees. “These kids, as we call them, are the hardest-working kids we have ever seen. We are actively looking to place them with jobs. Their families are counting on them, and this setback needs to be as short as possible,” Cruse expressed. 

Cruse learned of the fire through a call from one of his employees, who heard the news on a scanner. “We were on scene within five minutes,” he said.

Cruse described 100-foot flames shooting into the air and the amazing, quick response from various agencies in the area.

“They were all there within minutes, and they saved our town. They protected the trees directly behind the buildings, the homes that surround that back side of the buildings and, with much courage, saved the Blairsden Station right next to the fast-moving fire,” Cruse said.

He described at least four firefighters on the steps and upper balcony of Blairsden Station fighting the fire by wetting the building and keeping the flames at bay back toward the burning building.

“We thought for sure that the fire was going to spread to the Blairsden Station, but these courageous men and women said ‘no!’ And with their fearless action they kept the fire contained,” Cruse said. 

The Cruse family thanked the volunteers that arrived to use their training and courage to keep the fire from doing more damage than it did. They also thanked Tony and Ben Folchi for dropping whatever they were doing and bringing the equipment needed to make sure there were no hot spots to flare up later.

“We know that this fire has put hardship on many families that owned and worked at these two businesses, but we also know that our community is strong and we will all overcome this disaster,” said Cruse.

“We also know that our community is strong and we will all overcome this disaster.”

Matt Cruse, owner of Gumba’s Family Pizza

The Village Bakery, the Silva family’s well-loved family business of 21 years, was a total loss. In a statement released on their social media page, the bakery said, “With sadness in our hearts…. It is true. The Bakery is gone. The fire has taken the bakery. No one was hurt and we are so grateful. We are lost for words…Love, The Village Baker.”

Arisbeth Silva was 24 years old when she started working at the bakery, and at the age of 30, Silva and her husband worked hard to be able to buy the business. Two years ago, Silva’s husband passed away and she knew she had to keep going for her husband, children, and grandchildren. The bakery kept her going and always very busy, she said. 

“People would come from all around the world,  some just to be able to put a pushpin the huge map and make friends with such incredible people,” Silva said.

Many people, locals and visitors alike, have enjoyed the fruits of Arisbeth Silva’s passion at the bakery, which included fresh baked cakes, pies, cookies, and pastries, and the simple act of waking up in the mornings to switch the open sign on.

Silva stressed how grateful she is for the weddings she has been able to attend and to be able to make people their dream cakes. Silva says that she will always be grateful to be the owner and the village baker and for the incredible opportunities the bakery gave her.

There are a variety of fundraising efforts underway in support of the employees of Gumba’s and the Silva family at the Village Bakery including a GoFundMe campaign at

There will also be local fundraising events held in support of both businesses. 

Agencies that responded to the incident include California Highway Patrol, Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, Beckwourth Fire Department, Graeagle Fire Department, Plumas Eureka Fire Department, Quincy Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service, Plumas Sierra Rural Electric, Graeagle Land and Water, and Eastern Plumas Health Care Ambulance. 

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