Thursday, November 20, 2008

LaScala restaurant burns - from the Post-Journal

The following story is from the Post-Journal, forwarded to me via Lee Johnson who had it forwarded to him from Sue Siecker.


A burned La Scala

A burned La Scala

JAMESTOWN, New York, USA - Had it not been for the woman who showed up Wednesday morning to clean, more than a building may have been lost in the fire that destroyed LaScala's restaurant.

That's according to Jerry Raab, the chief of Fluvanna Fire Department, who said late Wednesday afternoon it was the cleaning woman who saved the lives of the restaurant's owners.

''The woman saw smoke and woke the Seagren family up,'' Raab said. ''They were still sleeping at the time. Had she not done that, the family might not have made it out of the fire.''

Firefighters were called to LaScala's at about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday morning. When the call came in, Raab said he was just a short distance away from the restaurant. By the time he made it to the restaurant, heavy smoke was already visible from the structure.

''Once the family was woken up, Mr. Seagren found a fire extinguisher and tried to put the fire out, but he couldn't,'' Raab said. ''The family did get out - but when we were dispatched, we were told there might be people trapped inside.''

Two Fluvanna Fire Department firefighters were sent inside to look for anyone trapped, only to become trapped themselves.

''We sent two firefighters in to make sure everyone was out of the building,'' Raab said. ''After they were inside, the fire blew up from the basement and took out half of the stairwell so they couldn't get back down. I give a lot of credit to the Jamestown Fire Department for bringing in their aerial truck. They were ready to put it through an upper-story window so the firefighters inside could get out.''

The trapped firefighters were able to jump over the burned stairwell and get out, Raab said. Nobody was injured in the fire.

''All we lost was a building, and you can rebuild a building,'' he said. ''It was very intense, but we're thankful nobody was hurt. That's the biggest thing.''

Initially, firefighters laid two attack lines and tried an interior attack, Raab said. But at about 9 a.m., the fire came up into the dining room and kitchen and the floor collapsed. Firefighters were evacuated from the building and, after everyone was accounted for, Raab said firefighters regrouped for an exterior attack.

But because the first and second floors - and, later, the roof - collapsed onto the fire, Raab said it was difficult for firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

''Fresh fuel kept falling onto the fire, which kept it going,'' Raab said. ''We finally got it under control at about 3 p.m.''

Firefighters were still on scene after 5 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. A county backhoe was brought in to remove debris so investigators could have access to the structure's basement. Fluvanna firefighters were sent back to the scene at about 7:30 p.m. when hot spots rekindled.

''Now, the county fire investigator will determine the cause of the fire,'' Raab said. ''They need to start their search in the basement. Once that's finished, the owner will need to immediately demolish the building. It's a total loss.''

Responding to the blaze on Wednesday were 13 departments. They included the Fluvanna Fire Department, Jamestown Fire Department, Sinclairville Fire Department, Ashville Fire Department, Falconer Fire Department, Ellery Center Volunteer Fire Department, Chautauqua County Rescue, Gerry Volunteer Fire Department, Dewittville Fire Department, Bemus Point Volunteer Fire Department, Maple Springs Fire Co., Stockton Volunteer Fire Co. and Busti Fire Department.

Also responding was WCA Services, the Salvation Army, the FAST Team, the Chautauqua County Fire Investigator's office, the New York State Police, the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department and fire police.

Raab credited firefighters with doing ''a really great job'' on the scene Wednesday.

''In this area, it's really unusual to see a fire take a big, well-known commercial structure like LaScala's,'' he said. ''The community lost an icon today, but it could have been much worse. On the whole, we were lucky.''

A Chautauqua County icon, LaScala's was known as one of the best locations in the county for fine dining.