FREEPORT — An overheated bathroom fan caused a fire that all but destroyed The Corsican Cafe & Chowder House early Wednesday morning.
The downtown restaurant, at 9 Mechanic St., caught fire just after 3 a.m. April 27 and was under control by 4:30 a.m.
According to Fire Chief Darrel Fournier, the state fire marshal found that the fire was started by a bathroom fan that was left on overnight. The bathroom was on the second floor of the building in the rear, and the fire spread up to the building’s attic.
No one was inside the building at the time of the fire and no one was injured.
Fournier said the fire was mostly contained to the second floor, but there was water damage throughout the building. He estimated the loss to be about $350,000.
Members of the family that owns the restaurant were at the scene Wednesday morning salvaging what they could.
“It’s stunning, I guess,” Nate Briggs, Corsican manager and son of owner Robin Wade, said. “I don’t know if there’s enough words to describe it.”
According to Briggs, 10 people are employed at The Corsican, and more were expected to be added during the summer.
A Rapid Response Session, which helps workers quickly file for unemployment benefits, was scheduled for Friday by the Maine Department of Labor. The meeting will take place at 1 p.m. at the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce at 57 Depot St.
The chamber has also set up a relief fund for the owners. Donations can be made at any Bath Savings Bank or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 160, Freeport, ME 04032.
Briggs said the building is more than 100 years old and was originally a horse-and-buggy repair shop. It was then an apartment building before being turned into a restaurant by Briggs’ parents, who bought it in 1986.
Wade said the family was about to celebrate The Corsican’s 30th anniversary. She said the restaurant had been closed for a month late this winter for renovations and reopened March 31. A grand reopening was being planned for this spring.
The South Freeport resident said she saw “total devastation” when she entered the building late Wednesday morning. She said it’s hard to say whether the building will have to be torn down and rebuilt, or it if it can be renovated.
“We’re going to see how it all shakes out, and then we’ll pick up the pieces and move on,” Wade said.
Wade’s insurance agent, Dave Millar, of Riley Insurance in Brunswick, said the business should be adequately insured.
“I think they’re fully covered,” he said. “They have all the coverage you’d want to have.”
R.D. Allen Freeport Jewelers, located behind The Corsican at 13 Middle St., sustained some damage to it’s building siding, but the building was not otherwise damaged. Annette Evans, the owner, said the building has a tenant in an upstairs apartment and he is OK.
Evans said she was very impressed by firefighters’s response, which included mutual aid from the Yarmouth, Brunswick, Topsham and Pownal departments.
“We were so overwhelmed by the fire response,” she said. “They were all so great. It was really comforting.”
“The Fire Department did a fantastic job,” she said. “I can’t say how efficient these guys were.”
Despite all the destruction and chaos, Wade remained calm and positive Wednesday morning.
“Life goes on,” she said. “Go with it.”