Photographs of the Sea Gull Fire by David John Russell, courtesy of his son David P. Russell. David P. Russell contributed greatly to this blog entry. Think in the Morning appreciates his time and concern and advice.
David P. Russell, former Sea Gull employee, MCN computer expert, and local photographer in his own right recently unearthed several original photographs taken by his father on the day of the fire. These are posted below with some brief comments.
By the time the firemen arrived on the scene, the Sea Gull was fully engulfed by the fire and threatening the Mendocino Fire Department next door. To the right in the photograph (south side of the restaurant) one fireman on the roof of the firehouse and another on a ladder precariously leaning on the front work to prevent the fire from damaging the firehouse. The picture is taken on Lansing Street facing the Sea Gull building. A few fire fighters are barely visible through the smoke on the left side as is the original Sea Gull sign. The sign was one of the few items that survived the fire.
A number of firemen are inspecting the north side of the restaurant. To the left, not shown, is the historic Stauer house. At the time it was a residence. Today it is Frankie’s restaurant. While the fire is not visible on the outside, the inside behind the exterior wall (the restaurant kitchen area) was burning and the heat was immense. Less than a year before the fire, the kitchen area had been remodeled with sheetrock and ceramic floor tiles. These improvements slowed down the fire and saved the home next door.
Another picture from the north side shows the roof beginning to cave in.
Another shot of the west side along Lansing Street shows that the fire-block wall on the south side served its purpose of protecting the Mendocino Fire Department. Given the narrow space between the restaurant and the fire house, the fire would have surely spread without the wall. Two firemen are spraying water into the the Cellar Bar while another, standing dangerously on an outside window box area, is looking into the dining room.
Another shot from Lansing street along the west side shows a better view of the fire department. Water was a major concern. The Fort Bragg Fire Department brought water, trucks, and firefighters down to Mendocino. Additional sources of water were trucked in by the Mendocino firemen and a temporary water holding apparatus was utilized on site.
The above photograph shows the old sign and a metal planter attached to the wall by the front entrance to the restaurant. Its also shows a few people watching along Ukiah Street on the north side of the restaurant.
A similar view as the previous picture, this is closer to the building and shows a better view of the sign. The fully destroyed inside is partially visible. Dozens of antique advertising signs and unusual decor were lost in the fire, many of local historical interest. Thanks to the quick and efficient response by the two fire departments, no lives were lost. And, the fire department to the south and the residence to the east were saved.
As the smoke dies down this photograph shows a clearer view of the front of the restaurant and Ukiah Street to the north.
This photograph from the SW corner of Lansing and Ukiah streets shows a larger view of the restaurant and its surroundings. The telephone lines were destroyed by the fire and many local residents were without phone service for several days.
The fire was very hot and continued for a very long time. Here two firemen are guiding a hose to spray into the west side of the restaurant. The windows of the dining room and cellar bar on the south side (right side in the photograph) are still intact at this point. There are several large redwood burls and logs visible in all the photographs that were placed around the restaurant to give structure to the parking areas and entrance.
The smoke increases as the water is applied to the fire. On the left up high you can see a wooden frame still hanging. The frame was for a white metal seagull that has been detached by the fire and is lying on a pile of debris below the frame.
A clearer and closer view of the firemen working on the west side.
A view of the scene of the fire taken from in front of the Masonic Lodge (Savings Bank). I can remember walking from the Sea Gull to the Savings Bank early every morning to make a deposit before there were any cars or people on the street. The view of the ocean, visible in this photograph, was always spectacular. It still is.
A view of the Masonic Lodge with fire trucks and equipment in front at the corner of Lansing and Ukiah streets. The sky is filled with smoke from the fire.
Another view of the Masonic Lodge (Savings Bank).
Fireman standing in the entrance to the now burned out restaurant.
Spraying water from the north side in at attempt to stop the spread of the fire east toward the residence.
On the north side it hardly looks like there is a fire. The exterior of the building appears almost fully intact. But, if you look closely, you can see that the roof is caving in and that the smoke is emerging as the fire eats its way out of the interior.
Another view of the north side that shows the residence behind the restaurant scorched from the intense heat from the fire. The lack of flames is deceptive. The entire restaurant is burning from the inside out. The heat was so intense that it cracked some of the windows on the north side of Ukiah street.
A view from the north side that shows the building smoking throughout while a peaceful ocean lies in the distance.
The fire is under control and the crew is now trying to bring things to a close.
The house, singed black on one side, has been saved. The restaurant is a total loss.
Sadly, fires continue when least expected. The recent fire in Fort Bragg on April 26, 2017 was horribly destructive. While, thankfully, no lives were lost, the lifework of several artists was irretrievably lost. Looking back on the Sea Gull fire which is now ancient history may be nostalgic but the recent fire is fresh and still painful. Think in the Morning recommends you contribute to the GoFundMe accounts or other local charities to help the artists involved or donate to them directly. And, while you’re at it, do something to help our local fire departments. Volunteers risk their lives to help us when we need them and they deserve our support.