Family seeks new home after East Main Street blaze |

Family seeks new home after East Main Street blaze

Michelle Rindels and Kyle Magin
Staff Writers

After losing their downtown Grass Valley home to flames last week, four people are seeking a place to stay.

The elderly couple and middle-aged couple who lived in the former Old California Restaurant building on East Main Street are currently living with family members in Grass Valley.

“It’s a very cramped situation,” said Ashley Schmidt, daughter and granddaughter of the victims. “But they’re as upbeat as they can be.”

Damage to the building has mounted into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Grass Valley Fire Department; the cause is still under investigation.

The family has not yet determined whether to tear down the four-level Victorian structure, Schmidt said.

“We’ve done an initial evaluation, and there’s some damage to the structural integrity,” said Grass Valley Community Development Director Joe Heckel. “But it’s possible someone could present a full restoration project.”

Next steps include installing a fence to keep trespassers out of the home site, where much of the roof is missing and windows are boarded up.

While the building was insured, the family is still working through the claims process. Schmidt set up a fund through Bank of the West where community members can donate as the family waits for insurance money.

The Nevada County chapter of the American Red Cross provided the family three nights in a hotel and a small food and clothing allowance immediately after the fire.

While all the residents and the family’s two dogs escaped the fire, one of the dogs may have to be euthanized after complications from smoke inhalation.

The family has “immense gratitude for the brave firefighters that risked their lives to battle the blaze,” said Paul Schmidt, the victims’ son-in-law. “The extra care taken to check on the welfare of the home’s inhabitants and the compassion they showed in their attempts to preserve precious family mementos will not soon be forgotten.”

Investigators are still looking into the cause of an Aug. 25 fire at Florio’s Olive Oil Co. on Main Street in Grass Valley, Grass Valley Fire Department Chief Tony Clarabut said.

The blaze destroyed Florio’s and damaged Swenson’s Outdoors, causing more than $100,000 in damage, fire officials said. Its origin was traced to the right hand side of Florio’s along the wall, Clarabut said.

Swenson’s owner Rosie Doolittle plans to reopen the children’s apparel store, while Florio’s Neil Sarchett plans to reopen on Spring Street in Nevada City.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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