After more than five hours of battling a blaze at Maria’s Italian Restaurant, located at 109 W. Spring St., Titusville Fire Department Fire Chief Joe Lamey said the damage to the property, as well as the adjacent New Life Care Center, at 107 W. Spring St., is likely so extensive that it is “beyond repair.”
Titusville’s fire department was called to the scene just before 11 p.m., when smoke was reported coming out of the building that houses the restaurant. Within an hour, thick clouds of black smoke had engulfed the building, and were billowing out of the front and back sides as flames licked their way up and through the roof.
With eight fire departments, including Titusville, Cherrytree, Hydetown, Pleasantville, Oil City, Corry, Franklin, and Cornplanter on scene, and upwards of 50 firefighters working to tame the inferno, areas of South Franklin Street and Spring Street were blocked off to make way for fire crews well into the early hours of the morning.
One of the restaurant’s employees who was at the scene said that she could see the smoke from Donovan and Bauer, near Hydetown.
By 1 a.m., the roof had begun to collapse on both the New Life Care Center and Maria’s, with bricks beginning to tumble from the left side of the 107 W. Spring St. location.
According to Lamey, the fire started on the first floor, in the kitchen area, and worked its way up from there.
“It started at the rear of the Maria’s Restaurant, somewhere in the kitchen area,” Lamey said. “I would say extensive damage to the Maria’s building, probably beyond repair. Extensive damage to the [New Life Care Center] building, as well. Both of the roofs collapsed. At this point, the Dunn’s building has what I would say is some moderate water damage only. No fire damage.”
A contributing factor to the conflagration spreading could have been the dry storage, which quickly went up in flames.
“Our crews made entry through the back door, and Hydetown’s crews came in through the front,” Lamey said. “The fire seemed to be between the ceiling and the floor of the second floor and was running the whole length. The whole area was stocked with dry goods, so once it got through the floor [all of it caught].”
Additionally, Lamey said, to his knowledge, there was no sprinkler system in the restaurant. With towers being used by Titusville, Oil City and Corry fire departments, Lamey said the crews hoped to put out the fire from above, but after the roofs began to collapse, the debris fell on top of the fire, preventing the fire crews from being able to get to the flames.
Instead, Lamey said they were forced to wait until some of the fire burned its way through the collapsed debris.
“The roof actually collapsed and it’s burning underneath that,” he said. “We can’t get to it from above, and with the collapse, you can’t get people in, so we’re kind of playing the waiting game.”
While fire crews worked to smother the flames, a kitchen fire on Church Run Road caused Titusville Fire Department to have to send out one of their trucks to the scene, temporarily taking away man power from the downtown fire.
As the crews waited for more of the blaze to burn through the collapsed roof, departments slowly began to leave the scene before the fire was officially ruled under control at 4:54 a.m.
Maria’s, which is owned by Giacomo Albegiani, moved to the 109 W. Spring St. location on Feb. 6, 2016, after moving from its previous location at 128 W. Spring St. in the downtown plaza, where it had been since 2010. Prior to that, the restaurant had been located on the east side of town.
It was not known on Wednesday morning if the building was insured.
Dodd can be reached by email, at email@example.com.