GRANTS PASS, Ore.– A tragic turn of events for local businesses at a strip mall after a fire broke out in one of the restaurants just a little before midnight.
“It was shocking,” said Alex Dabich, a relative of the owners. “I got on Facebook this morning when I woke up and that was one of the first news article I saw.”
In what was an unexpected and devastating blow to a place that has been a part of the community for decades, Black Forest Restaurant was at the heart of an ongoing fire investigation. While the business had closed for the night, calls soon came in to Grants Pass Public Safety from patrons at Joe’s Sports Bar and Grill – also a part of the strip mall – about eyes burning from smoke.
Crews responded and soon found smoke rising from the Black Forest. Within the next hour, the fire was ultimately put out but not before it thoroughly damaged the building.
“The roof above the Black Forest Restaurant is collapsed, it’s got heavy fire damage throughout. It also has heavy water and smoke damage,” said Fire Marshal Joe Hyatt.
While the owners of the restaurant were out of town, for the rest of the family that helps runs the restaurant – it’s especially hard to see.
“When she gets that phone call she’s gonna get off her cruise and this is gonna be the first thing she finds out being on her vacation,” said Dabich. “I know it’s gonna be hard for her. She pours her life into this restaurant.”
But it’s not only the family that’s being affected. Along with the restaurant’s next door neighbors, ADC Dental and Denture Clinic Inc. who suffered heavy losses from the fire as well, customers and employees of the store are also feeling for this loss.
“When I first showed up this morning I ran into one of the hostesses and she was crying and I asked her how she was doing and she said, ‘Well, I don’t have a job now,'” said Dabich. “It definitely impacts not only the people that work here but there’s a lot of people that come here, sometimes every day.”
Over the course of the day, that statement rang true as customers eager to start their day came to realize that their favorite restaurant wouldn’t be open.
Meanwhile, investigators are still looking at what caused the fire. It is believed to have originated inside the restaurant, which firefighters say didn’t have modern fire systems inside.
“Black Forest has been here a long time so they haven’t had to upgrade to a fire sprinkler system,” said Hyatt. “Whereas the section with Joe’s Bar and Grill was recently updated and was required under the new fire codes to actually have that new fire protection system installed.”
While the investigation continues, reports estimate that it might take over six months in order to fully repair the damage. But the family of Black Forest wants to let the community know – they’ll be back.
“I just want to encourage everyone, just kinda hang tight and just keep an eye on what’s going on here for when it comes time to open back up again,” said Dabich. “Because we’ll be here.”
Members of the community have already started a GoFundMe page to help support employees displaced by the fire.