2010-03-18 / Front Page

Elvey’s Goes Up In Flames

Temporarily relocates, displaced tenants seek help
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Firefighters from six counties battle a fire that swept through Elvey’s Flowers and Greenhouses in Knobsville last Wednesday morning. The gift shop, floral design area, greenhouses, apartments and garage that make up the business complex were all lost in the two-alarm blaze. Firefighters from six counties battle a fire that swept through Elvey’s Flowers and Greenhouses in Knobsville last Wednesday morning. The gift shop, floral design area, greenhouses, apartments and garage that make up the business complex were all lost in the two-alarm blaze. Several days after the county’s oldest flower shop was lost to a devastating fire, the newest owners of Elvey’s Flowers and Greenhouses have set up a temporary shop in hopes of meeting the demands of spring and the Easter holiday season.

Benny and Patty Ramsey announced on Tuesday they have temporarily relocated the floral business to the former Pleasant Valley Restaurant located near the intersection of Waterfall and Great Cove roads.

During the month of February the Ramsey family had reached a lease-to-own agreement with longtime florists and business owners Roger and Faye Elvey. Prior to her taking the reigns of the business that has been offering potted plants, arrangements and gifts to Fulton County residents since 1944, Patty had been an instrumental part of Elvey’s for the last 22 years as a longtime employee.

McConnellsburg firefighters blast water into a greenhouse at Elvey’s Flowers and Greenhouses in Knobsville. McConnellsburg firefighters blast water into a greenhouse at Elvey’s Flowers and Greenhouses in Knobsville. In speaking with the “News” following the March 10 blaze, Patty stated she would like the opportunity to rebuild and views the current situation as only temporary.

“It’ll be different, but it’ll be alright,” said Patty, who noted Roger Elvey has already been tossing around designs and plans for a new floral shop.

Patty pointed out the shop had not yet opened when Faye Elvey discovered the fire at around 7:30 p.m. Patty added Faye had just gone outside her home adjacent to the business to retrieve her morning paper and hadn’t noticed anything unusual. However, upon going upstairs, observed smoke and flames emerging to the rear of the main greenhouse.

Always a business woman, Patty said Faye managed to load the business van with flowers previously ordered for a funeral and went back inside the burning building to retrieve the cash box and computer system containing the shop’s customer database. Aiding Faye in retrieving items from the office area were two individuals including Fire Marshal M.B. Gordon of the Pennsylvania State Police, McConnellsburg, substation.

Gordon stated he spotted the smoke from the fire while driving to work that morning and drove directly to the floral shop in Knobsville. While inside the business securing items from the office area, Gordon noted the door connecting the front shop to the main greenhouse blew open, prompting the trio to quickly depart the building before the situation worsened.

McConnellsburg Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Pete Lynch said crews were alerted to the blaze at 7:34 a.m. after 911 dispatchers received a distress call from a person residing in one of two apartments located on the second story of the flower shop.

Firefighters arrived on the scene at 7:45 a.m. and found smoke rolling out of the rear of the building. The fire was immediately bumped up to a second alarm and calls for additional tankers were made to surrounding fire companies. Lynch’s request for assistance was met as a total of 12 tankers were used to fight the fire that appeared to originate from the greenhouse.

Manpower and equipment representing fire companies from a six-county area were on scene throughout the morning hours. Those assisting during the fire included Hustontown, Needmore, MMP&W, St. Thomas, Greencastle, Fannett-Metal, McKinley Street and Franklin companies from Chambersburg, Breezewood, Everett, RW&BT, Shade Gap, Newburg and Hancock. Pleasant Hall remained on standby.

Lynch stated when Mc- Connellsburg’s tanker and engine arrived on scene a total of 4,000 gallons of water was used during a 10- to 15-minute period during the company’s initial attempt at the fire. Meanwhile, crew members from Mc- Connellsburg and Hustontown launched an aggressive attack on interior work. They pulled out after eight minutes and began working defensively, according to Lynch.

McConnellsburg volunteer firefighters Tom Blue and Djuan “Tex” Marry recalled their time inside the burning building. Blue informed the “News” they encountered zero visibility and heavy fire in the upstairs area. The situation deteriorated very quickly, he said.

Marry concluded they opted to pull out when he was struck in the back and shoulder area by a falling board. “Something told me it was time to get out,” recalled Marry. “We were virtually on our hands and knees trying to get out.”

After running out of water, tankers were forced to pump water from a creek just north of the fire and shuttle it back to the scene. Local firefighters remained on the scene and had completed mop up by 11 a.m.

Looking back at the fire, Lynch said he knew the company was in trouble when they initially made the turn onto Second Street from their station and saw the smoke spreading across the sky.

Dazed at the outcome and disheartened that Fulton County lost a longtime family-operated business and several individuals lost their home, he concluded, “You’ve gotta have water. If you have to wait 15 to 20 minutes, it’s too late.”

The fire marshal and insurance company representatives visited the scene of the fire, and Gordon has linked the location of the blaze to the rear of the main greenhouse. Cause has been directly attributed to an improperly installed pellet stove flu pipe.

Furthermore, Gordon has set the overall loss at an excess of $1 million for the building and contents.

Meanwhile, as the business owners try to re-establish their livelihood, several Fulton County residents are trying to regain a sense of everyday normalcy on the heels of losing their home. Charles “Skip” Ramsey, who rented one of two apartments above the flower shop, reported to the “News” he was sleeping and was initially alerted to the fire by fellow renter Linda Kelly.

Ramsey stated he was able to emerge from the burning building with the clothes on his back, car keys, wallet and several important documents. Distraught and saddened at having lost several family mementos, including family photos of his late mother and father, his father’s World War II ribbon and two afghans, Ramsey said everything else he owned could be replaced.

Ramsey received assistance from the Fulton County chapter of the American Red Cross and was temporarily residing at Johnnie’s Motel in McConnellsburg in the days immediately following the fire. He has hopes he will be able to obtain additional clothing (size 3XL or 4XL shirts and 56X31 pants) as well as financial assistance to pay important bills such as car insurance.

“I’ve seen lots of fires over the years, but I’ve never been a part of one,” said Ramsey, whose father was an assistant state fire marshal. “It was unreal ... I know once you leave a building, you don’t go back in.”

Ramsey said he witnessed “everything go” and remained on the scene all last Wednesday morning, leaving him physically drained on Thursday.

Living arrangements have since been made for Ramsey’s neighbor Linda Kelly, her son and boyfriend. The family has moved into a residence along Skip’s Lane and arrangements were being made late last week for items such as furniture.

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