BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) - It could be quite a while before it is known how a fire started Tuesday morning that destroyed a Boardman restaurant.
Insurance investigators were on the scene of the burned-out Spice of India on Market Street Wednesday afternoon. Boardman Township Fire Chief George Brown is calling the business a total loss and has requested property owners make arrangements to have what's left of the building demolished, which could happen later this week.
In the meantime, fire investigators aren't speculating on a cause, despite a number of lawsuits involving the owners of the land and their tenants, and a state sales tax lien against the business.
"We can't jump to conclusions. We have to look at all items and all things and that's why we spent 12 hours out there yesterday and brought in the heavy equipment again. We have to do our due diligence and make sure we follow every lead possible," Brown said.
He said he was a little surprised at how quickly the blaze engulfed the building early Tuesday before calls started coming in to report it. The 911 tape has been released, revealing at least four calls came in to the emergency dispatch center reporting the fire that erupted around 4 a.m.
One of the exchanges is transcribed below:
911: 911, what is your emergency?
Caller: There's a fire on Market Street at the Indian restaurant at the end of McClurg Road. It's pretty big. The back of the restaurant is on fire.
911: Do you see anybody around?
Caller: I do not. There's a car parked in front of it right now.
911: What did the car look like?
Caller: I don't know. The vehicle is probably just here to see if everyone is o.k.because it wasn't there when I came by.
911: What did it look like?
Caller: I'm not that close. I can't see.
911: O.k. we will send them out there.
Other calls came in describing black smoke and flames coming from the building.
By the time firefighters arrived, flames already were shooting from all the windows and through the roof. Hours later, the business was being called a total loss and the State Fire Marshal had been called in to lead the investigation, and he is for now listing the cause as "undetermined."
"We have completed our scene investigation and we're working in conjunction with the Boardman police and fire departments right now," said Michael Duchesne with the fire marshal's office.
Court records show several suits filed between Rajendra Ingle, owner of Spice of India, and Tzarnas Family Company, the building's landlord, dating back to March 2013.
The lawyer for current tenant Rajendra Ingle said his client is suing landlord Nick Tzarnas, claiming the owner has reneged on the lease by refusing to transfer a liquor license. Over the weekend,Tzarnas reportedly posted a notice trying to evict Ingle for not paying the last couple month's rent. On top of that, the state has filed a lien against the restaurant to collect back sales taxes of a little more than $1,000.
"It just adds more pieces to the puzzle that have to be considered and so we've opened that whole realm," Brown said.
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