Fire Damages Popular Colorado Restaurant

BOULDER, Colo. --

Boulder firefighters are investigating the cause of a two-alarm fire that damaged a two-story building on the Pearl Street Mall on Wednesday morning.

The fire began at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and was burning above the ceiling of a ground-floor restaurant called Oak at 14th, located at 1400 Pearl St., Boulder fire spokesman Kim Kobel said.

About 30 firefighters battled the blaze that burned more than an hour and sent a plume of smoke above the popular downtown pedestrian mall.

The blaze briefly caused the evacuation of nearby buildings and closed pedestrian traffic on the mall between 14th and 16th streets and vehicle traffic on 14th Street between Spruce and Walnut streets, Kobel said.

Restaurant co-owner Bryan Dayton said a chef noticed flames coming down a chimney, the Daily Camera reported.

The restaurant was not open at the time, he said, but about 15 employees who were inside evacuated the building and called 911.

Dayton said he doesn't know how the fire started. The restaurant, housed in the old Tanner Building, only opened about three months ago.

"It's definitely heartbreaking," Dayton told the Camera. "I imagine there will be significant damage."

Kobel said the fire was difficult to fight because it was hidden between the second-floor ceiling and the roof, above the sprinkler system.

"There was a lot of duct work up there, so the fire fighters had to find all of those hidden fires," said Kobel.

From 7NEWS' fixed camera on the mall, heavy smoke could be seen coming from the building. Firefighters were chopping holes in the roof to clear smoke and improve visibility, Kobel said.

Maryfrances Toomey, who owns Belvedere Belgian Chocolate, next door to Oak, rushed to the scene after her manager called her to let her know she had been evacuated.

"It was kind of scary," said Toomey.

Toomey was unable to get inside the restaurant in the afternoon and wonders how much damage the business suffered.

"But you know what," Toomey said. "It is just stuff. It is all replaceable. You can't replace the people who could have gotten hurt. That's what insurance is for."

Kobel said about a block of buildings will be closed for at least the day because electricity had been shut-off.

It is unclear how many businesses have water and smoke damage.

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