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Three-alarm fire damages Rich’s Restaurant in Cedarburg

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CEDARBURG (WITI) -- Fire crews responded to the scene of a three-alarm fire at Rich's Restaurant in Cedarburg Monday night, February 4th.

Officials responded to the scene around 10:20 p.m. after receiving a call from a motorist who noticed flames inside the restaurant, located at the Echo Plaza.

According to authorities, the fire began on a grill inside the kitchen of the restaurant and spread up the ventilation system, across the ceiling and into the roof.

"There are about two to three layers of roofing material, so that was a challenge for us to get in there and get it extinguished," said Cedarburg Fire Chief Rich Van Dinter.

Officials say the fire quickly escalated to three-alarms and more than 70 firefighters from 10 different departments assisted at the scene. 

The restaurant was closed when the fire broke out.  No one was inside and no injuries were reported.

Rich's Restaurant has significant fire damage and two businesses next door, Jalisco Mexican Foods and Grapes & Tastes Wine Tasting Bar, has smoke damage as well.

"The whole ceiling is going to have to be replaced.  There's like four big holes in the ceiling and everything is charred," said Grapes & Tastes owner Sherrie Pals.

Pals spoke to the owner of Rich's Restaurant after the fire.

"He's really devastated.  It's his life and there's a lot of customers of his that come here. Elderly customers that come on a regular basis for years and years and years," said Pals.

Rich's Restaurant has been around since 1976.  It was considered a staple in the Cedarburg community for more than 30 years.

About 20 jobs are now in jeopardy and the future of the long-time establishment remains uncertain.

"I was a waitress here for about three years now.  It's the second home to a lot of people," said employee Katie Neumiller.

"This is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a restaurant owner because it's what we live off," said Jalisco Mexican Foods owner Miguel Herrera.

The owner of Rich's Restaurant told FOX6 News that he would like to reopen, but since he hasn't received a damage estimate yet, he isn't sure how long it would take or if he will have to rebuild.

The cause of the fire is unknown and remains under investigation.

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