Employees at A Better Fireplace and Stove and the Mammoth Outlet Malls save the day
Just as they were arriving to work on Wednesday, October 4, employees of A Better Fireplace and Stove noticed smoke pouring out of a building at 129 Center Street, the former location of Red Lily Floral Design.
It was just a few minutes before 8 a.m., and the employees sprang into action. “We saw the smoke and grabbed fire extinguishers, every hose we had in the place,” said Scott Voss, owner of the business. “We started spraying water in from the top of the windows, until the flames threw the glass out. We didn’t want to give it any more air at the start, but after the windows blew, one of our employees kicked the door in.”
Voss said that they were afraid that one of the employees of Mammoth Nursery, Greg Rollison (Rollison also refers to himself as Greg Rollins) was trapped inside. “We knew Greg was upstairs, that he lived there,” said Voss.
“Greg said he saw the fire in a corner and grabbed a fire extinguisher to try to fight the thing from inside, as we were fighting from the outside,” said Voss.
Shelby Cottrelli, Scott Voss’ daughter and an employee of A Better Fireplace and Stove, said that “seeing the fire suck the windows in, shatter them, was the craziest thing I’ve seen in my life. The guys were yelling through the window, ‘Are you in there?’” to Rollison.
Rollison told The Sheet on Wednesday that he was working upstairs in the building when the fire began. He said that he does not live in the building, although a bed was visible in the upstairs unit.
Rollison walked through the building after Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, who responded to the blaze, had left. He said that he was expecting employees to come to work that morning, and when he heard the commotion downstairs, he assumed it was them and didn’t come down right away. Then he saw smoke coming from below and rushed downstairs. He said he stood on a stump and sprayed a fire extinguisher through the window of the building while neighbors fought the fire through the other windows.
He said that many expensive things in the building had been damaged, including a $20,000 piece of English Black Walnut wood, out-of-production Makita drills, and an eiderdown quilt given to him by a friend that was irreplaceable.
Rollison said that his plan for the day was to work on the building, which is owned by the Bouwman Family Trust and is appraised at $82,000 for the land and $212,000 for improvements, according to Mono County Assessor Barry Beck.
MLFD Fire Marshal Thom Heller described the damage to the contents of the building as “moderate,” in a press release, and said that “the actions of the employees at Clean Sweep, the Luxury Outlet Mall, and Mammoth Reservations kept the fire damage to a minimum.”
“I’ve never seen such a strong community response,” said Cottrelli. “Our buildings are only six inches apart, and we have a lot of gas stoves in our store, as well as gas lines. Luckily, being a fireplace company, we have a lot of fire extinguishers. I think we had at least ten on site, more so than the said that she believed someone had deliberately set the fire in the building. She did not elaborate on who that might be.
Rollison also said he suspected that the fire was deliberately set. He said that the fire was burning from three corners of the downstairs of the building, and questioned how that could happen if the fire began from the gas stove, as MLFD contended. However, he said, “I have the ability to fix it all, it doesn’t bother me.”