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Fire damage could top $1M

The two-alarm fire that severely damaged McMurray’s Irish Pub on Friday appears to be accidental, and could end up a $1 million loss, according to preliminary reports.

It could be several weeks before investigators, insurance adjusters and other interested parties can meet to pin down the cause of the blaze, though they’re honing in on a fryer in the kitchen, Springfield Fire/Rescue Division Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Brian Miller said.

“(Investigators are) … looking at the fryer because we had reports from employees that there was something going on with the fryer,” he said Monday.

The building, 122 E. College Ave., also housed Paddy’s Backdoor Pizza and Carmae Catering.

An employee at the scene told the Springfield News-Sun the fire started at a fryer in the kitchen area, and workers couldn’t put it out with a fire extinguisher.

Fire then made it’s way into the attic space and quickly worked its way along the length of the building because it shared a common ceiling and roof, Miller said.

Commercial kitchens that produce grease-laden vapor are required to have a hood system over equipment with a suppression system inside of it, according to Miller.

“There’s also some question about whether or not the hood suppression system ever actuated,” Miller said. “The people that were in the kitchen have indicated to us that at no time while they were in there did they see the hood suppression system activate and dump the extinguishing agent onto the fire.”

It’s also been determined no one triggered the suppression system manually.

Employee accounts are that power to the fryer and the fryer itself was supposed to be turned off, so it’s not clear if the equipment malfunctioned or if someone had turned it on.

Miller doesn’t suspect criminal activity or arson.

One firefighter sustained a sprain or strain to his arm while climbing a ladder, but no other injuries were reported. The firefighter was back on duty Monday.

It’s not common for Springfield to have fires with two-alarms or more — though this is the second one this year — and even rarer for losses to reach $1 million, Miller said.

In February, a three-alarm fire at the Carter Jewelers Co. building in downtown destroyed the building. That fire remains under investigation and no exact cause has been determined.

The multiple-alarm fire term is a bit misleading, Miller said, because it’s not necessarily the size of the fire but how many crews are needed. Sometimes more crews are called in to relieve those who need a break, he said.

About 25 fire personnel worked the McMurray’s blaze over nearly three hours along with Box 27, an auxiliary unit that refills air cylinders and provides refreshments to firefighters.

The initial call came in just before 4 p.m. and it was under control about 6:45 p.m.

Business owner Kevin O’Neill, a Springfield city commissioner and former mayor, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

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