Santa Maria firefighters were investigating the cause of a two-alarm structure fire that burned a popular restaurant and a furniture store Thursday morning.
At approximately 6 a.m., personnel from the Santa Maria Fire Department and Santa Maria Police Department responded to the 700 block of South Broadway and found a fire in an alley behind Sergio’s Furniture building, Fire Chief Leonard Champion said.
Crews called a second alarm for the structure fire at 708 S. Broadway, bringing in additional resources from Santa Barbara County, SLO County Cal Fire, and Five Cities Fire Authority. Firefighters “ended up going to a defensive mode because of some partial structural collapse that was reported,” Champion said.
Crews pulled out of the building and “put a lot of water on this thing” to try and keep it from getting into the adjacent Shaw’s Famous Steakhouse and Tavern building, he said.
“Unfortunately it did get in and involve Shaw’s so now we’re just trying to keep it within the building itself,” he said at 9 a.m.
Other nearby institutions were not involved, including the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum and The Pantry, he said. A city fire marshal responded to the scene with an inspector, who are looking at security camera footage and talking to witnesses, Champion said.
At 9 a.m., flames were still visible from the buildings and black smoke wafted across South Broadway, which was closed for several hours before reopening just before 1 p.m.
“There’s a lot of fuel in that furniture store,” Champion said. Since crews can’t get hose lines inside, “it’s hard to get the nooks and crannies, and it burns for a while,” he said.
Champion said the blaze is one of the most significant fires in his tenure with the Santa Maria Fire Department.
The Discovery Museum announced on its social media pages the facility would remain closed Thursday since authorities had asked people to remain out of the area.
The site’s parking lot served as the staging area for the Fire Department’s behemoth Truck 1 to allow firefighters to shoot a stream water from the top the ladder onto the building burning behind the Discovery Museum.
This is not the first fire at that building housing Shaw’s and a furniture store. Longtime residents noted a fire damaged the then-Davidson’s Furniture store within the past two decades.
Shaw’s also has had at least one serious kitchen fire that caused significant damage in 2006. City officials said the building was seismically retrofitted in 1995 and rebuilt in 1999 due to fire damage.
“I don’t know how extensive that was,” city spokesman Mark van de Kamp said. Shaw’s is among a number of restaurants owned by Santa Maria-based Milt Guggia Enterprises, with others including A.J. Spur’s in Buellton, Templeton and Grover Beach; Pea Soup Andersen’s in Buellton; The Pantry on Park, Crumbles and Pappy’s 101 Diner in Santa Maria; and Pepper Garcia’s at the Santa Maria Public Airport.
Shaw’s typically lands at the top of local lists of favorite restaurants while also drawing praise from afar.
In a Sunset magazine story “This Unsung California Town Has the West’s Best BBQ,” on Santa Maria-style tri-tip, Shaw’s was described as “A huge, old-timey elegant place, filled with shining wood, brass, and historic local barbecue photos. The whole range of Santa Maria barbecue tradition shows up here, from tri-tip to spicy oak-grilled linguiça sausage, a gift from the Portuguese who immigrated to the area in the ’30s and ’40s.”