Fire broke out at the Los Panchos Mexican restaurant in Cuba on Sunday evening. Area firefighters worked the blaze for several hours but were unable to keep the excessive fire, smoke, and water damage from destroying much of the building.
“I’m not in a position to say that the building is a total loss,” said Cuba Fire Chief Mike Plank, “but it definitely sustained major damages. The fire was mostly contained to the attic area, but there was significant smoke and water damage throughout the structure. We did everything we could to try and control the fire and minimize the overall damage, but it was pretty messy.”
With the Los Panchos building located next door to the Cuba Firehouse on Maple Avenue, it was a near-immediate response time for the volunteer fire department when the 911 call went out around 5:10 p.m. Plank said there were four firemen already at the station, getting ready to go out on another call. “We got there immediately,” he indicated, “and started working the scene while backup was on the way.”
The restaurant was open for business on Sunday, and workers called 911 after noticing smoke in one of the back rooms, around the restroom facilities. Chief Plank said the fire could have been smoldering in the upper attic area for some time before it was ever noticed. He indicated the fire originated in the attic area, above the ceiling, and most of the actual fire damage was restricted to that area, heavily damaging the trusses. There was some limited fire damage in the main floor when pieces of the burning ceiling dropped.
According to Chief Plank, the building had three roofs constructed on it at various times, and firefighters had trouble getting water onto the fire. “We had trouble finding it, first, and then getting to it,” Plank said of the fire. “Because of the way they’d added a roof on top of a roof on top of another roof, we had a heck of a time getting water to it. We kept seeing smoke, but we couldn’t find fire—and we knew it was there somewhere. Guys were pulling down ceiling, and it looked like brand new insulation. It was a very labor intensive call, and we had a hard time with it.”
At one point it seemed the fire was under control, but when the Sunday evening breeze kicked up and more oxygen into the building, it reignited and firefighters had to go back inside to try and locate it.
“I think for what the building conditions were like, it turned out about as good as could have been expected,” Plank said.
Departments from Steelville, Cuba, Bourbon, Leasburg, Sullivan, and St. James were all called to the scene for assistance. Over 50 firefighters participated in the call.
According to Chief Plank, the fire marshal’s office investigated the scene and determined it was an accidental fire. “There were no indications of anything otherwise,” he stated, adding that the fire might have been sparked by electrical wiring but it was too difficult to determine for sure. The fire definitely originated above the ceiling, he said.
Crews began being released from the scene around 9 p.m., and the scene was fully cleared by 10 p.m. that night.
There is no clear indication whether or not Los Panchos will reopen or relocate in Cuba. The business was renting the facility that burned.