Structure fire closes landmark Essex restaurant

Middlesex

ESSEX, Conn. (WTNH) — A fire shut down a landmark restaurant in downtown Essex, and while many people are upset about that, they said it could have been a lot worse.

“You see how close these buildings are together,” said Essex fire marshal John Planas. “The exposure risk is very high.”

Planas showed News8 the tiny alleyway separating buildings on Main Street in downtown Essex.

He was supposed be here Monday morning to inspect the smoke detectors he had the owner install last year but instead he is investigating a fire which could have destroyed The Black Seal restaurant and the apartments above.

Fortunately those smoke detectors woke up a resident at about 4:45 a.m.

“One person had went out to the hallway they saw smoke,” said Planas. “Then they started banging on all the doors and getting all the other occupants out.”

Black Seal Fire, Essex, CT – Video: Keely Sweck via REPORIT!

The fire marshal says what was really scary about this fire is that in one of the apartments the smoke was banked just below the height of the bed and the people were still sleeping. Firefighters had to wake them up and tell them to get out.

Residents in all four apartments made it out safely and a quick response by firefighters saved the building.

“They made an incredible stop,” said Planas. “This could have been a devastating fire.”

And so could have been the fire at the Connecticut River Museum at the end of Main Street back in 2010. Firefighters knocked down that fire before any artifacts inside were damaged.

The fire marshal believes Monday’s fire started behind the stove in the kitchen of the restaurant and spread up to the attic.

“This whole block could have gone if there was a delay. So kudos to the fire people,” said Essex resident Richie Serian.

He is a regular at the The Black Seal.

“This is a legendary place here and we call it our living room,” said Serian.

“If you want to get a seat on a Saturday night you better get here early,” said Essex resident Michael Crivelli.

It may be closed for a while but this landmark is not lost and residents have been allowed back into the apartments.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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