Lightning strike eyed as cause of pizza restaurant blaze
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org @DanaheyECN on Twitter September 19, 2013 2:38PM
Firefighters pour water on a chimney as it begins to fall over atop Village Pizza and Pub in Carpentersville on Thursday. The chimney eventually collapsed completely. Fire officials suspect a lightning strike near the chimney ignited the blaze. | Lisa McInerney~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 21, 2013 2:16PM
CARPENTERSVILLE — A lightning strike might be the cause of a fire Thursday that damaged Village Pizza and Pub, on Route 25 just north of Helm Road in Carpentersville.
There were no known injuries, and most of the damage to the building happened in an open attic adjacent to the chimney.
“I’m sad, very sad. Sad for the staff. Sad for Mike and Marcie (Sarillo, the owners). And sad for our customers,” longtime Village Pizza staff member Marie Bertolami said Thursday afternoon as she rested in a portable chair near her car in the restaurant’s parking lot.
Bertolami said she came into the restaurant around 10 a.m., and shortly after that staff noticed problems with phone and computer connections and smelled what seemed to be burning plastic. Staffers were working in the kitchen and bar area, and between 11:30 a.m. and noon smoke was starting to come through vents, and the dining room had become smoky with the smell of burning wood. Staff then contacted the pub’s owners and called 911, Bertolami said.
Late Thursday night Battalion Chief Todd Middendorf said the emergency call came in shortly after 1:15 p.m. That afternoon, fire officials on the scene said the fire may have been caused by a lightning strike on or near the chimney from a storm moving through the area Thursday morning. Middendorf said the matter remains under investigation. A damage estimate was not yet available.
At least eight fire departments and Carpentersville police were at the scene along with Kane County Emergency Services as crews worked at the scene. Middendorf said most public safety workers were sent home by 5:30 p.m., and a crew from a private company then boarded up the building.
For a time, southbound traffic on Route 25 was rerouted down Bolz Road, while northbound traffic was detoured before Helm Road. The northbound reroute was still in place around 4 p.m. Community Unit School District 300 sent out electronic messages at 3 p.m. telling parents that some school buses serving Dundee-Crown High School, Algonquin Middle School and Algonquin Lakes Elementary School were running late because of the traffic blockages but that students were not in danger.
Onlooker Shannon Comstock said she was driving along Route 25 and heading to the 7-Eleven store at Helm Road before 2 p.m. when she spotted smoke coming from the restaurant’s roof, then pulled over in a liquor store parking lot across the street to watch.
Comstock’s father, Robert, said it appeared that employees and customers evacuated safely through the main entrance. But as they watched, flames spread through the roof area until the chimney collapsed, falling into the North Woods lodge-style building, he said.
“It’s a shame. It’s our favorite pizza place, and we were talking about going there for dinner tonight,” Shannon Comstock said.
Village Pizza and Pub has been in business for 35 years, starting as a carryout in 1978 and opening an adjacent restaurant in 1985. It is known for its peanuts on the table, cracker-thin thin crust pizza, and a house specialty, the double decker pizza.
The original location, which now holds a Rosati’s, is about 50 feet away from the spot that caught fire Thursday. Another Village Pizza located on Randall Road in Elgin opened in November 2007.
Village Pizza closed its first spot in the fall of 2009 then eventually reopened a new spot on the lot north to its old parlor in late 2010. In March, 2010, Lee’s Pizza Lodge opened in what was Village’s spot but closed during the summer of 2011, with the Rosati’s opening there in December 2011.