Rolla City Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeff Breen said it was around 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon when they got a fire response call to go to the Sinclair Gas and Dino Mart at 2003 N. Bishop Ave. If it wasn't for quick thinking managers, the fire could have been a lot worse.
Rolla City Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeff Breen said it was around 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon when they got a fire response call to go to the Sinclair Gas and Dino Mart at 2003 N. Bishop Ave.
He said when the first fire crew showed up and entered the room that was the source of smoke, they noticed boxes of paper records stored up above.
“They put the fire out and had to remove the piles of receipts to the outside, because they were still smoldering,” said the assistant chief. “We conducted an investigation and we found that there was a junction box with a shorted-out wire which heated the metal box. That box was in contact with the receipts, so it probably was smoldering for a long time before anybody noticed.”
“They didn’t receive any structural damage to the building, but took on a lot of smoke,” said Breen.
Tara Brinkley was the manager on duty at the time. She said the cinder block room is where they keep their housekeeping supplies.
“I opened it up to grab a trash bag and that’s when I saw ash and smelled smoke. I happened to look up and that’s when I saw the back wall was on fire,” said Brinkley.
“I got out, shut the door and yelled for Jeff (Duval),” she explained. “He’s our four to eleven guy here at night, and he thought I was joking.”
According to Assistant Chief Breen, the managers were trained well and followed through on actions that prevented an out of control fire. Brinkley called 911 just before 3 p.m. She then ran outside and hit the emergency kill button that shuts off the gas lines to the pumps.
“I told the people that were out at the gas pumps to get out, that the store was on fire,” she said.
According to Brinkley, one customer was in the men’s room and had a carload of children waiting for him at the pumps. Another customer was in the middle of pumping gas into his vehicle.
“He yelled, ‘I owe you $5.35 for gas!’, so he throws $5.35 at me and gets out of here,” she explains.
The gentleman in the men’s room made a quick departure as well, according to Brinkley.
“Jeff came running out of the store with the money bags from the office and the box of extra lottery tickets,” she added.
She said an officer with the Rolla Police Department helped Duval get the computer and more lottery tickets.
Owner Rick Barns was busy talking to his insurance agent at noon on Monday and continuing some general clean-up. He had an electrician working on the AC system that was knocked out. This is Barnes second home-away-from-home. He had been the manager for several decades, but has owned the station and store for almost 10 years. Outside, next to the station, were burned racks and a very large red bag that contained what was left of years of stored business receipts. But today, it appeared to be business as usual, aside from the faint odor of smoke. Nothing appeared out of place and customers were coming in to pay for gas and buy quick-shop items.
“When I got here, there were six firemen in full-gear inside my station with masks on, pulling a four-inch hose,” he said. “Smoke was coming out the front door and I was just beside myself.”
Barnes was thinking about losing the costly electronics of important safeguards for gas station operation—all in that room.
“I have the brains to the pumps in here—I have the sub pump units in here . . . the security system, and I’m thinking all of this is gone because they’ve hit it with water and now it’s all trashed,” he explained.
“They dragged smoking receipts out through the front door and when they left, I came in here . . . expecting the worst. There was no damage anywhere! The candy bars and jerky is still on the racks and nothing was damaged.”
“The fire department hit it with a little water, so water flowed down and knocked out the power to the walk-in cooler, but all-in-all—not much damage,” said Barnes.
He was delightfully surprised and impressed with the Rolla Fire Department.
“The damage could have been astronomical, financially,” he said. “I was so impressed with them.”