Fire Burns Historic California Bookstore

On Jan. 8, a fire started in an upstairs apartment of the historic Gallery Bookshop building on Main Street in Mendocino, Calif.

The resident of a neighboring water tower, artist Suzi Marquess Long, gives this account of the fire:

I heard the volunteer fire alarm at approximately 9:50, and after about ten minutes was blasted with light coming in my window from fire trucks on Main Street.

I looked out the window and saw the garden space between two buildings filled with smoke, almost blocking the bright red and white lights of several pieces of firefighting equipment already on the scene. I grabbed a coat and ran down to see what was happening.

I saw one of the three residents from the bookstore building. He was sitting on a bench and being tended to by EMT's so I couldn't have a conversation with him. The other resident, Roberta Whiteside, who had called 911 to report the fire, was huddled nearby with friends. I discovered the third resident and his dog were out of town and then ran back through the smoke to get my camera from the third floor of the water tower.

From the studio, I was able to see flames on the roof. I quickly took a few pictures and dashed back to the street, holding my breath. I told the first firefighter I came to that there were flames visible on the roof. What I was looking at was flames through a skylight, I found out later.

The main structure suffered much charring, but renovation has already begun. The bookstore suffered smoke and water damage, along with all three residences and two other businesses in the building. It was bad, but it could have been a disaster.