Published: March 18, 2014
Firefighters from three counties battled a ferocious fire that tore through a Butler Township restaurant late Monday night.
The blaze gutted Damenti’s, a well-known restaurant that has operated for 60 years and was known for hosting ice sculptures in the winter.
Ice encased the remains of the restaurant Tuesday morning after firefighters spent hours overnight extinguishing flames that at times shot 60 feet into the night sky.
They responded to the first calls to Luzerne County 911 at 10:45 p.m. Monday and arrived to find fire coming from the rear of the building, where the kitchen was located. The blaze had already torn through a large portion of the restaurant.
Crews could not access the inside of the building to attack the fire due to the intensity of the flames, Valley Regional Fire Chief Rich Bognar said.
“We couldn’t get crews inside to even do anything,” Bognar said.
Firefighters were unsure if anyone was inside the building when the fire began, Bognar said. Though the first floor of the building housed the restaurant, the second floor included living quarters. However, they determined no one was inside, and no injuries were reported.
Crews from Luzerne, Carbon and Schuylkill counties arrived, many of them with water tanker trucks that filled up at the nearby CAN DO Corporate Center and the Sand Springs golf community, just south of Damenti’s on Route 309. Firefighters also used water from a hydrant in Wright Township, Bognar said.
Tanker trucks hauled water to a portable pond set up on Route 309 in front of Damenti’s. Firefighters fought the fire by ground and with the aid of aerial ladder trucks
At midnight, flames and plumes of smoke rose from the building. By 1 a.m., small pockets of fire flickered from the building’s charred exterior.
A chimney atop the building appeared to be leaning from the fire damage, and windows were without panes of glass. Fire had also destroyed a portion of the front wall, leaving the building’s interior exposed.
Bognar believed firefighters would remain at the building until the sun rises Tuesday morning. He said crews could not determine the cause of the fire and were waiting for a Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal to investigate.
Route 309 was closed — including at Interstate 80 from the south — as fire police stood guard. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation laid salt to keep firefighters and their vehicles from slipping. Ice also covered firefighters’ turnout gear in the brisk, 25-degree morning air.
The blaze is the second to destroy a township eatery in three months. On Dec. 18, fire gutted the Bell House Cafe, about a half-mile south of Damenti’s.