Renner says he’ll reopen

Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat /

The Murphys tasting room destroyed in a fire early Sunday morning could reopen in a new location within weeks.

The owner of Renner Winery is searching for a new space in central Murphys, even if it is only a temporary location, tasting room manager Diane Gray said Wednesday.

"We're trying to make a long-term plan and a short-term plan because we want to be up and running again as quickly as possible," she said.

The tasting room was located at 498 Main St. for about two years, after moving from its Copperopolis home of three years.

Owner Dr. Ian Renner has been growing grapes for Renner Winery at Canterbury Vineyards in Vallecito since 1995.

Semi-retired from his job as a gastroenterologist for Mark Twain Medical Center, the 74-year-old has been ramping up the winery, Gray said.

Renner lived above the tasting room and was sleeping when the building caught fire in the early morning hours.

"All of a sudden I started hearing pops," he said, comparing it to the sound of uncorking champagne bottles. "I thought somebody must be having a party downstairs."

Renner opened a door to head to the ground floor and was "hit by a wall of black smoke."

He punched out a window on the second floor of building, crawled out and dangled from a string of Christmas lights, before blacking out.

His nextdoor neighbors, the Carey family, reported the fire about 4:20 a.m. They found Renner lying unconscious on his front lawn and helped him off the property, said Diane Lees, who lives three doors down.

"He was most definitely in shock," Lees said.

The Murphys Fire Protection District said Renner was treated at the scene.

Renner said he had a mild concussion and a "mess of bruises."

Lees woke up to the sound of an idling fire truck about 4:30 a.m. and saw crews fighting the blaze.

Lees allowed Renner, temporarily displaced neighbors and other bystanders to flow in and out of her warm home until about 10:30 a.m.

The fire was contained at 5:35 a.m. but crews continued to perform "mop up" for several hours, Murphys Fire said.

Seven other agencies responded to the blaze: Altaville-Melones, Cal Fire, Angels City, Ebbetts Pass, San Andreas, Central Calaveras and Calaveras Consolidated.

"It was unbelievable how the firemen took over and just did an incredible job to contain the fire," Lees said

The investigation is being conducted by the Calaveras Fire Investigation Unit.

Renner was unsure what caused the fire but said the building had old electrical wiring.

The building, owned by Ernesto Gutierrez, dates back to 1899, Gray said.

"It was a beautiful Victorian," she said. "They tried to keep everything as original as possible."

Murphys Fire Capt. Terry Billings estimated about 75 percent of the structure was burned.

Renner said he was unable to salvage anything from the wreckage, including expensive, irreplaceable pieces of artwork. He said those items were the most painful to lose.

"He had the most beautiful art collection you can imagine," Gray said.

Renner has been staying at a nearby hotel while searching for a new tasting room and place to live, Gray said.

"We will find a place," Renner assured.

The Union Democrat
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