Bottom, Kern County Fire Department arson investigators arrived after the fire was out for a routine check of the wiring and insulation at the FUBAR lounge in Lake of the Woods. The former Rocio?s Mexican Restaurant and Asian Express were formerly in the attached facility, which was vacant at the time of the fire. [Hedlund photos]
By Patric Hedlund
A structure fire in the former Rocio’s Mexican Restaurant and Bar in Lake of the Woods was put out at about 1 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1 by Kern County Fire Department firefighters. The building at 340 Lakewood Drive is still standing.
At approximately 12:40 a.m. the call was received by KCFD. Twelve firefighters responded in Frazier Park Engine 57, Lebec Engine 56 and Mettler Engine 55. 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 facility (which has been closed about a year) and the FUBAR lounge. It was vacant.
Upon arrival, 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,” Smith wrote.
“The smoke was horrible,” said Delorah Latham, 23 who lives about two blocks away. “I had to close all the 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.”
Firefighters at the scene said the blaze started in the FUBAR lounge. Captain Mark Phillips of Frazier Park’s Station 57 said his engine was the first there. Because of recent county budget- freezes, the Frazier Park Station is again operating with a two-firefigher crew.
“We had to fight it from outside, we couldn’t go in,” Phillips explained, 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 about $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 were 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.
Suspicious cars were said to have been reported around the building shortly before the blaze was noticed, one LOW resident said, but firefighters say electric wiring problems are likely.
“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.
—Pam Sturdevant contributed to this report
This is part of the September 04, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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