Fire rips through new takeout restaurant opened by Syrian refugee family
LONDON, ONT. -- A dream come true for a Syrian refugee family went up in smoke as flames ripped through their newly opened west London takeout restaurant Wednesday.
Fire crews were called to Damascus House at 312 Commissioners Rd. W. and Andover Drive after the lunch hour when a fire broke out in the kitchen.
The owner, Rasool Alabrach, tells CTV News, he tried to put the fire out himself but the fire extinguisher he had on hand did not work.
Family friend and employee Obai Alnassan, who was working at the time, said it was a scary experience. “And we run directly to the gas source. We shut it down. We use the fire extinguisher... I used it to put the fire down. It doesn’t work so I called 911.”
Five people working inside the small restaurant managed to get themselves out.
London Fire Department Platoon Chief Colin Shewell said two people were assessed by paramedics, one of whom was taken to hospital for unknown injuries.
“If you choose to use a fire extinguisher like these workers did, it’s meant for an initial knock-down but always give yourself a way out,” said Shewell. “Leave the job to the professionals, the London Fire Department, to get here and extinguish the fire.”
The fire department says the fire was contained to a small area and damage is estimated at $75,000.
The cause and source have not yet been determined. A fire investigator remained on scene Wednesday afternoon.
Staff and customers in the adjoining stores in the Westmount Plaza were evacuated while crews worked to knock down the fire.
Alabrach and his family fled war-torn Syria eight years ago and sought refuge in Canada. They moved to London in 2016, with Alabrach working several part-time jobs in that time.
They had just opened the restaurant on Friday to great fanfare, with Mayor Ed Holder and a number of other dignitaries on hand to cut the ribbon.
Alnassan said it’s disappointing to see what has happened.
“But it really hurt because they’ve been working to start this business for at least eight months and through three days, everything gone.”
He believes the family will rebuild and re-open once the ashes have settled from what was a devastating fire in a this brand new business.