Monthly Archives: February 2014

She writes how I feel…

Peach Cottage fire – part 2.

Being as I previously stated I would follow-up my original post about the Peach Cottage fire and resulting fatality – I thought I better get on it.

The carcass of said restaurant sat alongside the next-door market and other nearby businesses (all of which have changed names and hands since then – save one). Not much was left from that conflagration except for a small remnant of the bottom floor and an even smaller amount of the attic/top floor.

As with most building fires, the resulting mess of food products and other spoilable issues began their aromatic decay. I typically spent my days that summer sitting on the bumper of a fire engine after work – watching the world transpire along Central Avenue. Over the course of that June month and into July, townsfolk would regularly complain to us at the station about the bad smell emanating from the old Cottage and would ask when it might be razed. Unfortunately, that whole mess was a mix of responsibility and finances – of which I will skip here as no part of that story is positive or worthy.

On one memorable day, though, some weeks later – a gentleman walked up to myself and one other senior firefighter at the station complaining of the issues transpiring from said incident – except he trailed his issue with a statement we had not heard prior; “I think I found my brother”.

He then stated he had been looking for his missing brother since the prior month – and that quite possibly he was in the attic of the burned out cottage. Our shock was palpable. But we immediately took a fire engine to the scene and had him point out what he thought were the remains of his brother in the attic. His steadfastness of showing us a white palate against the charred black of timber and such – was in fact the skull of his lost relative.

Within short order, law enforcement, our fire administrative staff, the media and plenty of on-lookers began to converge. As with scenes like this, the inevitable work of body removal falls upon the fire department staff in assisting the coroner. Even more specifically – to me. I got to be the one actually prying the remains from their sarcophagus into the body bag. Watching and hearing the gasps and tuned-away cameras upon that moment of transference is way beyond forgettable for me. After it was all said and done – I washed my clothes twice – and the smell was still there. I threw them out that night amidst of failure.

Since the possible whims of murder and related circumstances have no statute of limitations – I can only summarize those events with my own thoughts and not of any organization; that the unfortunate timing of a shuttered restaurant burning down and a homeless individual within the same family dying in a tragic fire – has unfortunately long been forgotten by most – but not my me. No charges were filed – and any search of the incident appears to show no recording of it ever happening…

Visiting a BCFD Old Timer – and also an old friend…

A passion project of mine for more than a few years while involved with the BCFD, was keeping track of the guys who had served that great organization. One such in particular was a former Rescue Captain (and Lockheed fireman) – Art Evans. Many moons ago he decided to pick up sticks and move to Mendocino with his wife. They had just purchased a small cafe/deli in the downtown area of the picturesque little town; coincidentally he had just received his layoff notice at Lockheed the same day his offer was accepted for the business (Lockheed laid off the entire fire department that particular day).

On an unplanned road trip and walkabout this season, I ventured through Mendocino and surprised my old friend as he was preparing the shop for a busy Friday. At first I didn’t recognize him with his long beard, but that famous gait I saw so many times running from his home at Evans Rest to the station for EVERY call started a flood of memories. After a hug and some laughs, we went outside and talked for what seemed like hours about events transpired. He mentioned the only names to stop by all these 20+ years were some of the Lockheed guys (Gene Meschi and Ed Butler).
Art keeps a wall in his restaurant with some treasures of fire department history. In this Lockheed pic we see the names we all know of Ricky Gehrmann, Steve Sanders, Ed Butler, Art and even one I knew from my CDF days with Chris Liebenthal (that’s why I tagged you Mr. Culp).

The nearby pic from the 1982 year shows a BCFD that became famous nationwide for the events they partook in that storm year. We reminisced of the 10 or so names shown there that have since passed away. We caught up from what I knew of everyone else.

Typically I am the one that recalls the old adventures of my tenure, but Art actually reminded me of an entire storyline I had forgotten – but had apparently participated in: the wedding debacle in Monterey from more than a couple decades past…Where the likes of certain parties (unnamed here but named in our talk) destroyed an entire hotel room and nearby facilities in celebration of his marriage. One event he recalled, was a particular young gentleman in a tux, that while holding a champagne bottle decided he wanted to meet the ladies in the pool – two stories below, so he jumped from the balcony to introduce himself. I do recall most of the furniture ending up elsewhere…fuzzy memories of those two days slowly swirled back. Art mentioned he was permanently banned from that hotel – even though he had stayed elsewhere. We can laugh about it now though…

Art spent some years with the Mendocino Fire Department, instituting hazardous materials training and programs like he was always known for. He hopes that maybe some of those names we mentioned will pass through town and visit him someday. As I walked away the timing was so ironic: a fire call had just gone off for the small volunteer department. A business owner nearby ran out the door with his fire coat, hopped into his truck and drove to the station as a siren sounded from one of their responding vehicles across town (the man’s wife smiled as she conveyed to me “another fire call”)…if only I could tell her how I understood.

Art doesn’t touch computers so he won’t see this, but if anyone wants to get a hold of him – look for the Cultured Affair off one of the side streets in downtown Mendocino. I told him I would be tagging a few names in my FB post as a way of him saying hello to his long lost friends.