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Paoli restaurant hit by lightning, burns

by Marge Worth of the Local News Staff

Approximately 150 people were safely evacuated from Charlie Brown's Restaurant at 314 W. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, when it was struck by lightning and burned at 7.01 pm yesterday.

Paoli Fire Chief Les Hughes said when firemen arrived cars were trying to get out of the restaurant's parking lot.

"Flames were coming through one corner of the roof anf black acrid smoke was pouring out from everywhere." Said Hughes.

The restaurant was gutted and damage, according to Hughes, will be well in excess of $400,000.

Hughes said the owner of the restaurant, John Faire of Paoli, thought it was a minor fire at first and said there were no problems in evacuating the clients from the building. Faire was not available for comment this morning.

According to Hughes it was impossible for firemen to open up the roof "because there were so many sub-roofs in there and the fire was already up in there. We always knew we would have a problem if it caught on fire," he said.

Started in old section

The building, which is between Cedar Hollow and Manor roads in Willistown Township, was remodeled two years ago. The fire is believed to have started in the old section of the south side of the bulding. The older section is two-story with the office on the second story and the newer section is one story. The building was constructed of brick and wood with an asphalt shingle roof.

Approximately 125 firemen from five volunteer companies fought the blaze as more than 100 spectators ignored the rain to watch the persistent flames and billowing smoke. A resident of S. Cedar Hollow road said he heard the crash and knew that lightninig had struck nearby.

Hughes said the smoke was so thick and kept so low due to the rain that the two firemen manning the snorkel above the fire used 2,400 cubic feet of compressed air in their breathing apparatus. The snorkel control operator on the ground also had to wear a mask due to the heavy smoke.

Fireman injured

Malvern fireman Eric Fedor, 21, dropped an ax on his foot and was treated at Paoli Memorial Hospital and discharged.

Hughes said firemen were at the scene until 11 p.m. Assisting the Paoli Fire Co. volunteers were members of the Malvern, Berwyn, East Whiteland fire companies and the West Chester's Good Will air truck.

There apparently were some problems with the fire hydrants in the immediate vicinity of the fire and a large hose was laid from Matthews Ford along route 30 to the scene.

Traffic rerouted

Traffic on Rt. 30 was backed up for a while and then rerouted. Eastbound traffic on Rt. 30 was detoured at Paoli Memorial Hospital east on W. Central Avenue to Industrial Boulevard to Cedar Hollow Road and back to W, Central Avenue - complicated due to the small railroad bridge being closed - then to N. Valley Road and Rt. 30 in Paoli. Westbound traffic was rerouted to Paoli Pike and to to return to Rt. 30 again would have to go through Malvern.

The restaurant was formerly operated as "The Lock Stock and Barrel" and it suffered a minor fire about 10 years ago. Prior to that for a brief time the building was operated under the title of "Heldover".

Daily Local News, June 26, 1981