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Fire Of Undetermined Cause Destroys Former Restaurant Building



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Whether from the days of operation as McGuire’s Ale House, Hot Shots II/Hot Shots Grille, or any other iteration of restaurants at 130 Mt Pleasant Road, all memories made at the popular and long-vacant Hawleyville establishment literally went up in smoke January 14 after a fire destroyed the building.

Deputy Fire Marshal Dave Ober told The Newtown Bee this week that a cause of the fire has not been determined.

“We’re done” investigating, he said January 19. “Unless some new information comes forward, at this point we are undetermined. The state came in to assist us, and they helped us rule out a location and a cause.”

A team that included an arson dog was seen with its handler waiting for responders to finish pulling apart the structure to extinguish hot spots.

Ober said it is now up to the building’s insurance company to further investigate the incident.

Newtown’s fire companies were dispatched around 9:30 am January 14 to the hilltop building at the corner of Mt Pleasant and Hawleyville roads after passersby began calling 911 to report a fire. Arriving first, Newtown police officers confirmed a fire.

Hawleyville Volunteer Fire Company Chief Don Digioia, who arrived right behind police officers, said the fire was well underway by then.

“There was heavy smoke coming out of the structure, and the part of the building toward the top parking lot was pretty much involved,” he said.

The driveway for the former restaurant went along the western side of the building before reaching parking lots on the northern side of the building. Apparatus staged in the upper parking lot as well as on Mt Pleasant Road.

Digioia served as officer in command at the fire, which quickly spread through the entire building.

The two-story building on 1.1 acres was constructed in 1984, according to online land records. The commercial building — which also operated as Sweetbriars and Taunton Tavern at different times — had 5,279 square feet. Its decks offered views over Mt Pleasant, Sawmill, and Hawleyville roads.

The ale house, its most recent use, had been closed for a few years. A large sign advertising the availability of a commercial lease had been planted in front of the building for months.

The closure played a role in Digioia pulling firefighters out of the building as the fire continued burning last week. An all-clear signal was sounded shortly before 10 am.

“The stability of the structure, once you get a fire going like that, the structure is no longer viable,” Digioia said Friday evening, a few hours after the fire. “There was stuff that was burning for a while, and being an old bar who knows what was in some of those boxes in there.”

From the exterior it appeared to be a stubborn fire. Flames would disappear, seemingly out, but then reappear from different parts of the roofline or windows. Digioia attributed that to working only from outside the building.

“Any time you have an exterior operation due to the fact that there was such a strong interior fire, it becomes difficult to get into all of the void spaces within a building when you’re not in there putting water on it,” he said.

Firefighters then surrounded the building and filled it with water. An excavator later pulled walls apart so that additional water could further douse the embers.

With Mt Pleasant closed between its intersections with Hawleyville Road and Taunton Lane during the fire, traffic was detoured around the location. Multiple people in a nearby business plaza and other locations emerged to watch the scene unfold.

Some ended up stuck within the plaza parking lot or on Mt Pleasant once 1,300 feet of fire hose was laid down the middle of Mt Pleasant Road, from the fire scene to the intersection with Taunton Lane. A portable pond in the intersection provided water from that location; a second pond was set up on the opposite side of the fire scene, at the intersection of Mt Pleasant at Hawleyville Road.

Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps was dispatched to the call per structure fire protocol. No injuries were reported.

Eversource also sent a crew to the scene.

At least one property owner had reportedly arrived at the property by late morning. Online records list the current owner of record as 130 Mt Pleasant Realty LLC.

Digioia credited the work of the approximately 40 firefighters at the scene for “a good job” knocking down the fire.

“To the scene there was a lot of mutual aid,” he added, noting Brookfield and Stony Hill both sent manpower to the scene.

“Other companies assisted throughout the town for station coverage. We do appreciate all those companies that came,” the chief also said.


Associate Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.

Newtown’s five fire companies received mutual aid from surrounding towns when a fire destroyed the former restaurant building at 130 Mt Pleasant Road on January 14. Firefighters spent nearly 4½ hours at the location before fully reopening the state road late Friday afternoon. A cause of the fire has not been determined. —Bee Photo, Hicks
The scene of the fire around 10:30 am Friday, January 14, about an hour after the fire was reported. —Bee Photo, Hicks
View from the west: heavy smoke occasionally created near blackout conditions. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Over 1,300 feet of 5-inch fire hose stretched from apparatus at the base of the driverway of 130 Mt Pleasant Road to Mt Pleasant's intersection with Taunton Lane Road, where one of two portable ponds were providing water to firefighters. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Botsford Fire Rescue Second Lieutenant Mike Dziubna, left, and First Assistant Chief Pete Blomberg work with one of the portable ponds set up to provide water to firefighters on the hill behind them last week. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Firefighters prepare to open a door under the wraparound deck. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Firefighters continue to train a hose on debris while an excavator opens walls and floors to reveal potential hotspots Friday afternoon. —Bee Photo, Voket
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