1. #1
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    Default South Trail Fla-fire Destroys Macaroni Grill

    Investigation widens in Macaroni Grill fire

    By SARAH LUNDY
    Published by news-press.com on May 24, 2005
    Fire officials spent most of Tuesday clearing debris from the burned out Romano’s Macaroni Grill restaurant on U.S. 41 south of Daniels Parkway.

    A crane lifted out large air conditioning units and other debris that was destroyed in the blaze, which started around 3 a.m.

    “We have to get the debris out before we can go in to investigate,” said South Trail Fire Fire Marshal Craig Brotheim.

    Yellow tape is draped around the restaurant to keep visitors away Tuesday.

    Fire investigators throughout the state have joined local officials in investigation. The joint task force, which is made up of about 30 people, has members from South Trial Fire Department, State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. This move is common when there’s a large incident like Monday’s fire, Brotheim said.

    Once the restaurant is safe to explore, the investigators will be searching for burn patterns, how the fire traveled, equipment in the building and other signs that can reveal what happened. It’s still unclear how the far started and where in the restaurant.

    “It’s premature to speculate,” Brotheim said.

    The Red Cross volunteers also were out of the restaurant Tuesday to offer food and water to the investigators.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Officials seek clues; 75 seek jobs

    Macaroni Grill future uncertain

    By Joan D. LaGuardia
    jlaguardia@news-press.com
    Published by news-press.com on May 24, 2005


    Fire marshals will converge today at the remains of Romano's Macaroni Grill on U.S. 41 south of Daniels Parkway to determine why the popular restaurant burned to rubble early Monday morning.

    Before the cause of the fire can be determined, cranes must lift four car-sized air blowers and other smaller air units from the ash.

    The equipment crashed through the blazing roof about 3:45 a.m., moments after firefighters fled the building at the orders of their safety officer.

    The blaze put 75 people out of work and shut down one of the top-producing restaurants owned by Dallas-based Brinker International.

    No specific dollar value was placed on the damage.

    "It's definitely a multimillion dollar loss, including the loss of business," said Craig Brotheim, fire marshal for South Trail Fire Protection and Rescue.

    South Trail got the fire call at about 3:10 a.m. Monday.

    "It was probably not under control totally until the sun came up," said Bill Lombardo, the South Trail safety officer on the scene.

    One South Trail firefighter was treated and released for heat exhaustion at Gulf Coast Hospital. There were no other injuries. The restaurant was closed when the fire erupted.

    Brinker officials have not yet decided if or when the 11-year-old restaurant, which was recently remodeled, would be rebuilt.

    "It's a location that performed very well for us," Adams said.

    Brinker owns the lot at 13721 S. Tamiami Trail, Fort Myers, where it offered customers pasta and wine selections to the accompaniment of strolling singers.

    All four stations in the South Trail fire district reported to the scene, including three engine trucks, a ladder truck and rescue unit. Iona and San Carlos departments were also on the scene. Fort Myers and Lehigh units were on standby.

    "It was frightening," said Christie Knudsen, spokeswoman for South Trail. "This is the biggest structure fire we've had this year."

    When firefighters arrived, the southern portion of the building was engulfed in flames. The kitchen was on that side of the building.

    Immediately he noticed a chimney leaning and became concerned about the big air units on the red tile roof.

    "They're huge. In certain circles, we call them firefighter killers," he said.

    "Conditions started getting a lot worse quickly when it started burning through the roof," Lombardo said. "We started seeing heavy, heavy smoke and flames coming through the roof.

    "Three different engine companies were there inside the building. We pulled our firefighters out before the roof caved in," he said. "Within 10 minutes of when we were on the scene, we were calling people out.

    "It was a large fire, one of our bigger ones. You always hate to see a landmark burn," Lombardo said.

    No surrounding structures were damaged.

    The restaurant housed flammable items, including liquid propane and natural gas used in the kitchen as well as bottles of wine.

    Monday afternoon, TECO Gas Services was called to shut off the natural gas hook-up and firefighters burned off the last of the fuel in a 400-pound LP gas tank to make the rubble safe for fire investigators.

    The state fire marshal's forensic investigation team will join Brotheim in the investigation. Agents throughout the state staff the team.

    Monday, Brotheim and firefighters worked to make the rubble and ash safe for investigators.

    "The building is definitely too unstable to just jump right in," Brotheim said.

    "It's going to be an extensively long investigation," Lombardo noted.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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