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Monday, May 21, 2012

Fire Damages Historic Restaurant in Vancouver

A two-alarm fire damaged a landmark Vancouver waterfront restaurant just after lunch hour today.

Firefighters were called to Who Song & Larry's Cantina at 111 S.E. Columbia Way about 1:15 p.m. after a report of smoke coming from the attic space. They arrived to find light smoke coming from the building, but the fire was spreading even as they parked their trucks.

Diners and staff successfully evacuated the restaurant. Within a few minutes flames erupted from one end of the roof, and a second alarm was called. In all, most of the city's on-duty firefighters were called to the scene, along with units from Clark County Fire District 6 and the Portland Fire Bureau. Portland also sent the fire boat Eldon Trinity in case the blaze needs to be attacked from the river side, but it was dismissed without using its water cannons.

By 1:45 p.m. firefighters gained the upper hand and prevented the flames from spreading, according to emergency radio traffic monitored at The Columbian.

The landmark Mexican restaurant has occupied a spot on the north bank of the Columbia River, just east of the Interstate 5 Bridge, for nearly 30 years, and predates Waterfront Park. It is a unit of RM Opco, which since March 12 is the owner of the El Torito and Chevy's Fresh Mex chains, among other brands.

Although the firefighters are still on the scene, it seems likely that the restaurant will have to be closed for significant repairs. The interior has suffered smoke and water damage, and some of the fire sprinklers triggered, according to radio traffic.

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