Restaurant owner thankful that no one was hurt in fire
HUNTINGTON -- With the sky over downtown finally clearing of soot and smoke, business owner Drew Hetzer was looking on the sunny side Sunday afternoon and giving thanks for what he still has -- all of his staff safe and sound.
Hetzer's two popular downtown eateries, Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar and The Peddler, both located on the first floor of the historic seven-floor Morris Building, are temporarily closed until further notice after a Sunday morning fire in the upper levels of the building.
The fire collapsed the roof and caused extensive smoke and water damage throughout.
"We will bounce back, and we will come back as a team and as a family," said Hetzer, whose Backyard family is still in recovery following a July accident that claimed the life of employee Nick McFann. "I was just worried about the staff and everybody in there."
Oliver Bailey, manager at Backyard, said they had a crew in prepping for the restaurant's popular Sunday brunch, when someone ran in around 8:30 a.m. and said their building's roof -- seven floors above -- was on fire.
Bailey said the workers ran out and saw the fire, ran back in, pulled the fire alarm, shut down all the appliances and ran back out of the building.
As of late Sunday afternoon, Fire Chief Carl Eastham said although more than 100,000 gallons of water were poured into the Morris Building, he believes the building should not be a full loss. The first-floor businesses, including Backyard Pizza and The Peddler, should be able to return after extensive cleanup from the water damage.
"We were very fortunate that this building was significantly built," Eastham said. "It was able to stand up to what it had going against it."
Hetzer's mom, Kathleen Hanlon Litton, saw the fire as she was coming to church at Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, a block away at 10th Street and 5th Avenue.
"I said, 'Oh my God, that's Drew's building," Litton said. ... "I'm just glad no one was hurt. Drew has insurance, but we are just thankful no one was hurt."
Litton said their family had been through a fire tragedy before when Drew and his sister were both living in the Emmons Apartment buildings, which caught fire on Jan. 13, 2007, and claimed nine lives.
Drew Hetzer said it was surviving the Emmons fire, in part, that has given him a sense that truly the only thing important in life are the people.
"You can always build a business, and you can always come up with an idea for a business. But lives are the most important thing," Hetzer said. "The Emmons fire was an emotional time then for us and for everyone affected and who was there.
"When this kind of thing happens like today, you're just glad that is was not as bad as it could have been. The fire department, I can't believe what they did," he said. "I have to thank them and everybody that responded."
Hetzer, who is also currently overseeing the building of another new business, The Wedge (banquet space and restaurant) at the Silo Golf Course, said Sunday afternoon he's been overwhelmed by the flood of texts, calls and Facebook and Twitter posts from friends and customers.
"Huntington is a special city, and the community support and the generosity of the people is overwhelming," Hetzer said tearing up. "I hope we can repay that."
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