Jan. 12--BALLSTON -- Fire investigators are trying to determine what caused a fire early Sunday morning that gutted the Burnt Hills Lanes bowling alley in less than 30 minutes.
Saratoga County and state fire investigators were on scene Sunday morning looking through charred rubble from the bowling alley on Route 50, which has been the scene of countless get-togethers, parties and league games since it opened in 1959.
Burnt Hills Fire Chief Stephen Peterson said a person driving by noticed the fire around 1:27 a.m., only about 20 minutes after the bowling alley had closed. By the time firefighters arrived, the structure was already falling down.
Sam So, owner of Sam's Chinese Restaurant across the street on Route 50 said he was shocked as he watched the fire explode out of the alley windows only minutes after he emerged from his home, which is next door to the restaurant. Firefighters were stationed outside of the restaurant waiting to see if they would need to douse the roof as embers from the roaring blaze blew across the street.
Firefighters also had to protect the Burnt Hills Ballston Lake High School football field press box, which is farther north behind So's restaurant and a line of trees. Power was also cut to two apartment buildings next door to the bowling alley, as the fire began to melt power lines.
"The fire trucks came but I knew they wouldn't be able to save it," So said. "It happened so fast."
Peterson said it appears the fire started in the kitchen/bar area, but it's unknown if the fire was accidental or intentionally set. He said considering the chemical treatments used on the wood floors, and the huge open space filled with oxygen, it's not surprising the building went up so quickly. He said the owners just completed three years worth of renovations on the building.
The fire chief said it could take days before a determination is made. A few outside walls that remained standing Sunday morning will be demolished to ensure they do not fall on anyone.
East Glenville, Ballston Spa, Ballston Lake, Charlton and Round Lake fire departments assisted.
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