NEWS UPDATE: : Fire Damages Lake of the Woods Bar and Restaurant

By Patric Hedlund
LAKE OF THE WOODS (Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009—1:20 a.m.)—A structure fire in the former Rocio’s Mexican Restaurant and Bar was put out early this morning by Kern County Fire Department firefighters. Suspicious cars were said to have been reported around the building shortly before the blaze was noticed, one Lake of the Woods resident said. The building at 340 Lakewood Drive is stil standing.

At approximately 12:40 a.m. the call was received by KCFD. Twelve firefighters responded from Frazier Park #57, Lebec #56 and Mettler #55 Stations. A KCFD press release by Brandon Smith refers to the area as a "strip mall," but mountain residents know it as a free-standing single-story building that houses a restaurant (which has been closed about a year) and the FUBAR lounge. It was vacant.

Upon arrival, Smith writes, crews found the structure two-thirds involved in flames. "Crews made a quick and aggressive attack on the fire, containing it to the first two buildings."

"The smoke was horrible," said Delorah Latham,23 who lives about two blocks away, on Ivons. "I had to close all of my windows in my house because i couldn’t breathe. I drove down and saw what was going on and it looked like the fire had been started from the inside. needless to say it was crazy."

According to firefighters at the scene, the blaze started in the FUBAR lounge. Captain Mark Phillips of Frazier Park’s Station #57 said his engine was the first on the scene. Because of county budget-tightening, Station #57 is again operating as a two-firefigher crew. "We had to fight it from outside, we couldn’t go in," Phillips said, until additional firefighters arrived from Station #56 in Lebec. Protocols require that three firefighters be on-scene before one of them may enter a burning building.

Phillips said he is glad they were able to contain the damage to the west side of the building, the lounge, leaving the restaurant portion of the structure with much less damage. 

Smith wrote that the building has an estimated value of $750,000, and that the fire destroyed approximately $100,000. "The building was not occupied, so no one was inside at the time. There were no reported injuries," Smith said.

Staff from The Mountain Enterprise took photos at 1:30 a.m. and was there at 3 a.m. as KCFD arson investigators raked through the smokey debris of the bar. "I don’t know what I’m looking at yet," one commented to this reporter, looking perplexed.

"The building was not occupied, so no one was inside at the time. There were no reported injuries. The fire is under investigation, however it does appear to be electrical related," Smith concludes. The neighbor, Delorah Latham, said she recently noticed the building was listed with a realtor.

More will be added to this report as available.

This is part of the August 28, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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