WXXI AM News

LISTEN: President of City Blue Imaging talks about that devastating fire

Dec 25, 2020

Firefighters pour water on a huge fire in a commercial building at East Ave. and Scio St. on Thursday night.
Credit Rochester Fire Dept. PIO

UPDATE: President of City Blue Imaging, Mark Cleary, posted on Facebook that he will open a temporary office for the company:

"I am happy to report that we will be opening a temporary office on Tuesday next door at our neighbors, 84 Scio StPlease look for further posts on Monday with contact information for the new office including phone, email and mail info. Several friends in the Rochester printing world have offered their support to help us continue printing." 

A massive three-alarm fire brought dozens of firefighters to East Ave. and Scio St. in Rochester’s East End on Thursday night.

The fire reported just after 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve was at City Blue Imaging at 68 Scio St., and fire officials say that when they got to the large, two-story brick building, they found heavy smoke and fire coming from the rear of the building.


Crews initially were able to get inside the building, but faced high heat and heavy smoke.

Authorities say it was tough to fight the fire because of the size of the building, its limited entry points, and lack of windows. Firefighters were ordered out of the building because of the deteriorating conditions and concerns about structural stability of the building.

The crews continued to pour water on the building from the outside, with multiple aerial ladder trucks and the front of the building did eventually collapse.

Spectrum News photographer Jeff Hamson captured video when the facade of the building collapsed:

There were no reported civilian injuries but one firefighter suffered an injury believed to be minor. Authorities say there were about 70 firefighters on scene and it took hours to get it under control. They say with the very quick response by fire crews, they were able to keep the flames from spreading to other buildings.

Fire crews fought a massive fire at City Blue Imaging into the early morning hours on Friday, 12-25-20
Credit Rochester Fire Dept. - PIO

Smoke billowed from the building throughout downtown and could be smelled from some distance away.

The city used its 911 reverse emergency notification system to let people know in the city about the fire in case they could smell or see the smoke.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Firefighters remained at the scene, still putting water on hot spots into Friday morning. Demolition crews were sifting through what was left of the building.

City Blue Imaging, which provides a variety of digital and printing services, has roots that date back to 1926.  Its website notes that it started at City Blue Print Company, which merged with R.A. Ellis in 1993. In 2005, City Blue purchased printing company Classic Image Associates, and all three companies have been located at the 16,000 square foot facility on Scio Street.

City Blue Imaging President Mark Cleary
Credit file photo

Mark Cleary, president of City Blue Imaging, was home when his alarm company called him about an alarm going off at the Scio St. building. He said that when he pulled into the parking lot, the smoke was intense.

“It was just surreal to see the flames pouring out and the fire trucks, there was almost, I think, two to three adder trucks during the time just streaming water on the fire,” Cleary said.

On Friday, Cleary was headed to church for Christmas mass and said that he would be reflecting on what he should be thankful for.

"I’m looking forward to just thinking about last night and how no one really got hurt and how thankful I am the Rochester Fire Department did such an amazing job just being there in the smoke and it was raining out," Cleary said. "It was not an optimal night to fight a fire, especially being on Christmas Eve."

The City Blue Imaging building also has murals painted on it that were done by well-known local artist Shawn Dunwoody. Even though the main building was destroyed, Cleary said a separate smaller building in the parking lot that had a mural by Dunwoody did survive. 

Cleary said that City Blue has been in that Scio St. building for 25 years. The printing company was on Atlas St. behind the former Midtown Plaza complex before that for 70 years. He said the Scio St. building had previously been home to a heating and air conditioning company, and before that, was used for a taxi business.

City Blue Imaging has employed as many as 16 people, although that number was down somewhat in recent months due to the impact of the pandemic. Cleary said that he and his staff will regroup on Monday to talk about what's next.

Cleary served on the WXXI/Little Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2019; having served as Secretary from 2015 to 2019. He also served on the Board of the Little Theatre Film Society from 2000 to 2012.

Cleary joined WXXI’s Emeritus Board, the Trustee Council, in 2019.