Businesses in jeopardy after Whyte Ave blaze
Published Thursday, April 7, 2011 6:58PM MDT
Paul and Amsale Sumano say they are "heartbroken" after learning their restaurant and five other businesses may not be salvageable because of damage caused by a massive fire.
The two-alarm blaze was reported at 3:40 a.m. Thursday on 82nd Avenue and 99th Street, and caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage to the 4,000-square foot building.
"I don't have words to explain how I feel," said Paul, who's run the Ethiopian restaurant Langanos Skies with his wife for the past seven years.
"Not only am I losing food or things, I'm losing lots of memories, lots of arts."
The two say over the past 29 years they've amassed an extensive art collection from their homeland, treating their restaurant as an ethnic gateway for the Whyte Avenue community.
"For us it's not only food we sell, it's our culture we show, too," said Amsale.
"I spent 15 hours every single day in this restaurant to cook food for people and to show our culture.... Now what? I don't know."
Fire officials say crews responded to the call after an intrusion alarm was triggered at the site. Fifty firefighters tackled the difficult blaze, and had it out in two hours.
"Lots of heat and flames - we do have structural collapse," said Cpt. John Yaschuk, telling reporters the east end of the building sustained most of the damage. "We have a second floor that failed and the roof a short time after that did fail too, so crews went in and then crews were driven out by the flames."
At least one man who witnessed the incident admits he was rattled.
"All of a sudden I just see this big puff of smoke and I was kind of scared," said Travis Adams from the scene. "I've never seen a fire like this before, honestly, it's pretty scary. I don't want to be here right now."
A large section of Whyte Avenue was closed to traffic while firefighters battled the flames and as of 3 p.m. Thursday, traffic was still reduced to one lane in both directions.
Investigators are interested in getting a closer look at an area at the back of a building, but say they have not yet pinpointed the origin or cause of the blaze.
The Sumanos, meantime, are trying to focus on the positive.
Amsale says she often sleeps in the basement of the restaurant while her husband finishes up at a second business they own. Afterward, he picks her up and they head home together.
"Thee o'clock, four o'clock sometimes until he finishes cleaning, I'm here working," she said. "And then I finish my work and I go downstairs to sleep, so thank goodness I didn't do that last night."
"My family, my wife, we are okay but the rest is gone, all our dream, what we got, is gone," said Paul.
With Files from Susan Amerongen