A fire Friday afternoon that heavily damaged a popular Irish pub and restaurant, as well as a catering business, started in a kitchen fryer.
That’s the preliminary assessment from Springfield Fire Rescue Division Chief Nick Heimlich, who kept firefighters on the scene at McMurray’s Irish Pub, Paddy’s Backdoor Pizza and Carmae Catering, all housed at 122 E. College Ave., on Friday night.
The fire was believed to have erupted about 4 p.m., according to fire investigators and a worker at the catering business who discovered smoke inside the popular spot for students at nearby Wittenberg University.
Crews were dispatched to the scene a little after 4 p.m. on a report of a kitchen fire.
Heimlich said firefighters found “an advanced fire” in the center of the structure and noted that the progression of the fire was very rapid.
Because the three businesses are connected and under one roof “a problem in one pretty quickly becomes a problem in the others,” the chief said.
When the decision was made to pull back and take a defensive posture in battling the flames because crews weren’t making the kind of progress they wanted in putting out the fire, Heimlich said, “basically that means for the most part the structure is a loss.”
One firefighter was taken to a hospital for an unspecified injury that Heimlich characterized as “minor.”
The worker who discovered the smoke said he and two other employees alerted others in the building and called the fire department.
The employee, Chris Tayloe, said he saw smoke at a fryer as he was walking through the kitchen, preparing to make a delivery.
“There wasn’t anything cooking,” he said. “There was smoke like you’d never seen.”
Tayloe said he and the two other employees cut off power to the fryer and tried to use a fire extinguisher “but it only got worse. We didn’t see any way of getting it stopped.”
Smoke from the scene could be seen up to a mile away.
City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill, a former mayor who owns McMurray’s bar and restaurant, said he will rebuild.
O’Neill has operated the business since 1992. The city directory lists O’Brien’s Restaurant operating at the same location in the late 1940s.