WINSLOW — Hot ash from a cigarette discarded outside the Lobster Trap Restaurant on Bay Street apparently caused a fire that damaged a wall of the building Tuesday afternoon and prompted officials to cut power to the eatery, according to Fire Chief David LaFountain.
Firefighters went to the restaurant at 2:21 p.m. after an employee called to say the building was filling up with smoke.
Central Maine Power Co. turned power off to the restaurant and bar area and firefighters used an axe to dig into an outside wall under an electrical meter box to get at the fire and extinguish it.
The restaurant was open and three employees were working inside when the fire started, but there were no customers in the building.
The owner said the restaurant will not reopen until Thursday.
LaFountain said at the scene that the fire was accidental. Wind likely blew the cigarette butt against the outside wall, starting the fire, he said.
“The fire got up into the wall, so we’re going to chase it to make sure it’s not charred anymore — to make sure it’s out,” he said as firefighters worked at the scene.
Once the fire was out, LaFountain told a restaurant employee that an electrician needed to come to check burned wires inside the building before the power could be turned back on.
The part of the restaurant affected was the bar area, not the main restaurant and kitchen. A thin layer of powder covered the tables and floor in the bar area where, LaFountain said, employees had used a fire extinguisher before firefighters arrived.
Meanwhile, health inspectors from the state Department of Health & Human Services arrived to ensure food safety during the loss of power.
Maurice Anderson of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, in the Division of Environmental Health, said he and public health inspector Ian Mastemaker would remain on the site until the power was restored. He said he was called to scene by the Fire Department, which calls health inspectors in the event of a fire, flood or extended loss of power at restaurants because of the effect it may have on the food.
He said that if the fire had occurred at night, the building could have been destroyed. Firefighters did a good job in locating the fire and putting it out, he said.
“You have to give credit where credit is due and credit is due to the Fire Department,” Anderson said. “This could have been a bad fire.”
Restaurant owner Jeannine Hendsbee said early Tuesday evening that the restaurant will not open until Thursday. She said there is not a lot of damage, but an electrician and cleaners will be coming in to get the restaurant back to where it was before the fire.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” she said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247