On Monday, March 17th, 2003, at 2:50 a.m. the Whitehall Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire at The Royale Gardens Restaurant and Banquet Hall 3614 Lehigh St.
Dispatched on the initial call were three of the township's five stations (Hokendauqua, West Catasauqua and Fullerton). The first responding chief officer was given an additional that included police on scene reporting a working fire.
Due to the township's tower ladder being out of service for mechanical reasons, Assistant Chief Bilder requested the dispatch of a ladder truck from nearby Catasauqua to respond to the scene.
Chief Robert Benner while still responding to the call, called for a full 2nd alarm assignment which brought in two engines from the township's Egypt station and an EMS unit from Cetronia for rehab.
Deputy Chief Terry Schaffer the first arriving officer on scene reported a working fire with flames from two sides of the building which was once a farm house. The first arriving engine on the scene from Hokendauqua deployed several handlines in an attempt to knock down the fire.
Only a few minutes into the call the roof collapsed bringing down two air conditioning units into the interior of the building. At 2:57 only seven minutes after the initial call was dispatched, crews were placing master streams in service and the call for an additional ladder truck was placed.
An additional call would bring the township's Cementon station along with engines from Northampton and Catasauqua.
At 03:28 with fire spreading to additional parts of the building a call was made to the City of Allentown for their Tower Ladder. Several times during the fire flames could be seen shooting 50 to 60 feet in the air.
In all 11 engines, 3 aerials and 1 special service unit with approximately 100 firefighters battled the fire for over 3 hours before bringing it under control.
Crews would however remain on scene with hot spots for the rest of the day, with one engine being committed to a fire watch overnight the following evening.
The fire is still under investigation however Chief Benner estimated the fire caused 1 million dollars in damage to the building.