Fire damages local eatery

By Ron Leir |


A two-alarm fire at La Caravana Restaurant last Thursday afternoon scattered diners and employees, but no one was hurt in the incident.

Harrison Fire Chief Tom Dolaghan said dispatchers received “multiple” 911 calls – including one from an off-duty East Newark cop – at about 2:15 p.m., alerting them to flames coming from the roof of the eatery at Frank Rodgers Blvd. North and Davis St.

Fire was also spotted shooting out from seams in the sheet metal ductwork in an alley alongside the restaurant.

“A lot of people took the time to call us, and that extra vigilance by citizens is what we like to see,” Dolaghan said.

Employees were cooking at a gas-fired charcoal grill, and fire officials surmise that soot from the charcoal may have built up and sparked flames above the kitchen’s fire suppression system, spreading into the ductwork between the first and second floors, Dolaghan said.

He said the foam fire suppression system was never activated.

“The system had been maintained,” Dolaghan said. “It had been tested (by the town) in late March, and everything was found to be proper.”

Initially, Harrison Fire Department’s Engines 1 and 3 responded, with help from Kearny Fire Department’s chief and deputy chief accompanying a power ladder truck and two engines, plus an East Newark Volunteer Fire Department rapid intervention engine.

As Harrison firefighters doused the blaze with two hose lines inside the restaurant, Kearny firefighters mounted an attack from above, hitting a pocket of fire that was spreading from the vent to the roof.

Meanwhile, another group of firefighters climbed to the building’s second floor where they forced open two doors leading to a Portuguese church, Iglesia De Dios Luz Y Vida, and pulled down ceilings to access the vent system.

By 3:06 p.m., the fire was declared under control, the chief said.

Damage to the building was estimated at several thousand dollars.

The restaurant was ordered to temporarily close, pending a cleanup and completion of a fire investigation.

On Friday, men were busy cleaning the inside and washing down the outside of the building. Leslie Medina, who identified himself as the manager, said they were hoping to reopen in a few days.

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