|Firefighters douse hot spots on smouldering rubble after an early Wednesday morning fire destroyed the Boston Pizza restaurant along Mayor Magrath Drive. Herald photo by Ian Martens|
About 50 employees are out of work after an early morning fire razed a Lethbridge restaurant.
Firefighters from three stations were called out to Boston Pizza on Mayor Magrath Drive South just before 5 a.m. Wednesday as black smoke clouded the area. The restaurant was already engulfed by the time crews arrived. As firefighters dumped water on the restaurant his family has owned for more than 30 years, all Mike Vallely could do was watch it burn.
Vallely, one of the franchise's owners, got the wake-up call around 5:10 a.m. and raced down to the restaurant - one of two Boston Pizzas in Lethbridge, both of which the family owns.
"Watching your life's work go up in flames is kind of awe-inspiring, I suppose," Vallely said.
"It touches so many people. I mean, we have a lot of staff. We have responsibilities with our head office, banks, and all that stuff. It goes through your head, 'OK, where do we start? What do we do first?' You're a little bit taken aback."
No one was inside at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported. Investigators haven't yet found the cause of the fire. There's no official estimation of damages, but firefighters on scene expected to tear down a few remaining structural pieces of the building - everything else was ash, apart from a few outdoor patio chairs.
"It's devastating," said franchise co-owner Ryan Enevold, who added a new restaurant would cost about $3.5 million to build.
But as they watched their business smoulder, the owners planned to rebuild.
"We'll rebuild, you bet," Vallely said. "I'm sure that myself and Boston Pizza International will want to have a location up and running on this site as quickly as possible, for sure. It's a great location and it's been a great store and Lethbridge is really good to Boston Pizza. We'll want to have a new location there as quickly as we can."
Lethbridge firefighters were busy Wednesday. About five hours before the restaurant fire sparked, crews responded to a southside hotel fire.
Just after midnight, smoke poured out of a second-floor storage room in Lethbridge Lodge, setting off alarms and the building's sprinkler system. Thirteen firefighters contained the small blaze in the storage room and extinguished it. Guests were escorted to the lobby at the time and no one was hurt. The fire doesn't look suspicious, according to the Lethbridge fire department, which is still investigating. No damage estimate was available Wednesday afternoon.
Parts of the building had water damage, but the hotel remained open for business.
These two fires are the latest in a recent rash of blazes in Lethbridge.
On November 17, 2012, an early-morning blaze destroyed the Cheesecake Cafe. That fire, believed to have sparked in a staff room clothes dryer, caused $1 million in damages and the owner decided not to rebuild.