Barbacoa fire appears accidental

Barbacoa fire appears accidental
BOISE - Fire officials said Monday they might never know what sparked a fire that destroyed a popular restaurant in southeast Boise.

Investigators say the fire appears accidental, but because of the extensive damage to the building, they will not be able to determine exactly what sparked the fire. Investigators say they can rule out foul play.

Boise Firefighters were called to a structure fire after a restaurant employee inside Barbacoa called 911 after seeing smoke in the building.

When the first firefighters arrived they found heavy smoke and flames inside the restaurant. The fire appeared to be coming from the attic and was quickly spreading. As firefighters attacked the fire from inside, they could see the roof becoming unstable. A short time later the roof collapsed. Fortunately, firefighters had recognized the danger and evacuated the building. No one was hurt.

"As soon as they had stepped through the door, the roof started to collapse," said Battalion Chief Tom Pawek with Boise Fire.

Because of the heavy smoke and fire, the blaze was upgraded from a one to three alarm fire bringing additional resources totaling 15 fire engines, ladder trucks and other apparatus, and 35 firefighters and support crews. At that point the building was not salvageable and firefighters changed to containment.

"It changed our tactics from an offensive operation to a defensive operation," he said.

Despite the effort, the fire spread quickly and the building was destroyed. Fire investigators say the building does not appear to have a sprinkler system. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The destruction of the business means upwards of 125 employees will now be filing for unemployment and beginning to look for work. Many employees came to the scene of the fire to see the destruction for themselves.

"I only work a couple days a week but for a lot of them this is their life," said Aaron Azzarito, a bartender. "They work here 40 hours a week and support a family. One of my really good friends is a busser and was out here with his kid and it was just really hard to watch."

Robert and Martine Castoro own the restaurant, which opened more than two years ago. As of Saturday afternoon they were in contact with their general contractor, architect and designer.

"We will rebuild, okay?" Castoro encouraged his employees in a gathering Saturday afternoon. "We've already put the wheels in motion."

The Castoros want to hire as many of their employees in the rebuilding effort as possible and say those with experience will get first offers for the new jobs.

"So I don't want anyone worrying...okay? Capiche?" he said.

The meeting was lightened at times but still harsh reality remained about what some will do for work.

"Like my husband said it could be worse," said Martine Castoro. "This is a kick in the leg. Everything is going to be fine and we'll get through it."

But some employees think that it is going to be difficult to keep everyone together and the same atmosphere for the reopening.

"There just isn't a camaraderie like there is at Barbacoa," said Azzarito. "You feel like you lose a family. A lot of us just went over to Red Robin to grab a beer and say goodbye to each other."

But Castoro insisted they will rebuild and get through this together.

"When the waves of life get too harsh, just smile and know what's left will be beautiful beaches," he said. "We'll get through this...okay guys? We'll get through this and it'll be a great, great thing again."

They hope to reopen by summer and offer every single employee their old job back then.

"The only thing I would ask is if there's any jobs out there for these young people, they're a great great staff," Castoro said. "There's not a single one I wouldn't have back."

People are urged to call 208 830-8332 to offer assistance or employment.