The Corsican Cafe & Chowder House in Freeport was destroyed by fire Wednesday morning.

The fire ripped through the second and third floors of the well-known restaurant at 9 Mechanic St., a short distance from the L.L. Bean headquarters. Fire officials say the building is a total loss.

The cause of the fire will be investigated by the State Fire Marshals Office.

Freeport Fire Chief Darrel Fournier said his department was alerted to the fire at 3:02 a.m. by a fire alarm activation from within the restaurant. The first crews arrived on scene at 3:06 a.m. “They had heavy fire showing from the second-floor rear of the building,” he said. “The crews advanced a line into the second floor, but the fire conditions quickly escalated, which forced them out of the building.”

After firefighters had to leave the building, the department struck a second alarm to call in aid from surrounding towns. Crews evacuated residents of a building 10 feet behind the Corsican building as a precaution, but the second building was not damaged, Fournier said.

Nobody was inside the Corsican Cafe building when the fire started, Fournier said.

Fournier said the old building was built with balloon construction, which contributed to how quickly the fire spread.

“Open voids allowed the fire to travel very quickly from the second floor to the attic,” he said. “That created a bit of a challenge for us.”

Fournier estimated the loss of the building at $400,000.

Freeport was assisted on scene by Brunswick, Topsham, Pownal and Yarmouth fire departments. The Falmouth and Cumberland fire departments provided station coverage.

Mechanic Street was reopened to traffic at 7 a.m. when crews cleared the scene.

The Corsican Cafe & Chowder House has been open since 1986, according to its website. It opened for the season on March 31. The cafe is owned by Hugh Wade and his sister, Robin Wade.

The building was built in 1870. The property has an assessed value of $261,900, according to town records.

Kelly Edwards, executive director of Freeport USA, said the restaurant was a big part of the community. The restaurant owners now must deal with an uncertain future when they should be celebrating the business’s 30th anniversary, she said.

Edwards said she hasn’t heard from the owners, but hopes to help support them as they deal with the loss.

“We will be part of a community effort to rally around them and get them back on their feet,” Edwards said.

Within hours of the fire, fans of the restaurant began posting messages of support on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“Prayers for the wellbeing of everyone connected with your establishment,” wrote supporter Michael Wallace. “It is a great presence in downtown Freeport.”

filed under: