Massive fire destroys Boise restaurant



Posted on January 2, 2010 at 2:03 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 2 at 6:48 PM

BOISE -- An early morning fire devastated a popular southeast Boise restaurant, but one of the owners said they will rebuild.

The fire inside the Barbacoa Grill on Bobwhite Court burned for more than six hours before firefighters were able to put out all the flames and douse the hot spots.

It's a devastating blow to 125 people who now don’t have a place to work.

"An employee came to work this morning, (and) when he opened the door, he did encounter quite a bit of smoke," said Battalion Chief Steve Rasulo with the Boise Fire Department.

A short time later, just after 5 a.m., Boise Firefighters got to the scene.

"As our crews first arrived on scene we had heavy smoke throughout the building and coming out several areas of the building,” Rasulo said. “They did try to make an attack on the fire from the inside. When they got inside they encountered a tremendous amount of heat and determined the fire was throughout the attic space.”

Fearful the roof would soon collapse, firefighters began a defensive attack.

Fifteen fire engines, ladder trucks and 35 firefighters fought the flames that at their peak shot around 40 feet above the building. The roof collapsed after 9 a.m.

Hours later the flames subsided, but only a little.

By that point, Barbacoa employees stood at a distance and watched.

"All of us are feeling really upset, sad, you know, there's plenty of us that are going to have to get jobs now,” said Ali Fairbrother, a hostess at Barbacoa. “Probably close to 100 people that worked here that are in need of jobs."

Employees said they closed the restaurant around 2 a.m. Saturday.

Three hours later, an employee opened the building and spotted the fire.

By that point, there was nothing that could be done.

"If you work somewhere it's like your family,” said Chantel Booker, a hostess at Barbacoa. “It's not necessarily the building. It's everyone's lives working together. So the fact that we're going to be separated probably now, it's just kind of sad, because you build a family with people you work with."

While employees deal with the loss, investigators work to find answers.

"Now we're doing overhaul and salvage of the small hot spots within the building,” said Boise Fire Department Battalion Chief Tom Pawek. “We're also currently investigating the cause of the fire and trying to determine what caused it to begin with."

The co-owner of Barbacoa, Robert Castoro, said, "Without question that the restaurant will rebuild. The wheels are already in motion and we look forward to serving the community again as soon as possible.”

Castoro also released this statement: "We'd like to first express our deepest sympathy for the employees and families of Barbacoa.  Our main concern is for their well being. My wife Martine and I plan on doing everything in our power to help them through this difficult time."

The owner went on to thank the community for its outpouring of support.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, Castoro met with most of his 125 employees at Key Bank on the corner of Apple and ParkCenter.

There, he gave them what information he could about the fire that destroyed his 2 ½ year old business.

Castoro stood in front of his employees emotional, saying his first concern is their well being.

"Nobody needs to worry, okay,” Castoro said. “We're all upset right now alright, but like I said, worse things happen. Nobody in this room is going to lose their apartment, their condo, their home. Alright? We'll all get through this. There are means and there are ways.”

Recognizing that it's the first of the month, Castoro told his employees they had access to the company's $3,000 slush fund.

Referencing Jimmy Stewart’s character from “It's a Wonderful Life,” he told them to take what they need and nothing more, and to pay the company back if and when they can.

He also said that he's contacted a contractor to begin the rebuilding process and said he wants to use his own employees in that process so they will have work. He's also working with other restaurant owners to get his other employees jobs.

Fire investigators are still working to figure out exactly what started the fire that destroyed the building. All that is currently known is that the blaze started in the ceiling.

At the same time of the meeting at Key Bank, firefighters had to go back to Barbacoa to put out a hotspot that flared up.