By John DeCoste and Jennifer Hoegg
A fire Dec. 18 caused extensive damage to the Le Caveau restaurant at the Domain de Grand Pré winery in Grand Pré.
Wolfville firefighters responded to the alarm and eventually requested mutual aid from Greenwich, Port Williams and Hantsport.
According to Wolfville fire chief Kirk Fredericks, on their arrival, they found no visible fire, but there was a lot of smoke and other evidence of a fire in the floor near a large stove.
“We ended up having to chase it around a bit,” Fredericks said.
He confirmed the fire “was in the floor below the kitchen and above the restaurant.” Firefighters had to cut out a portion of the floor in front of the stove and do a trench cut in order to gain access underneath. As well, “about 20 square feet” of the ceiling of the restaurant area had to be pulled down to access the fire.
“It was going pretty good in the void spaces between the floors when we got there,” he said, adding “at least a couple” of the main floor beams had suffered damage.
“There wasn’t a lot of actual fire damage, but there is smoke damage upstairs and water damage downstairs, along with the damage we had to do to get at the fire.”
He suggested, “they’re likely looking at a fairly major repair.”
The fire left quite the mess, Domaine de Grand Pré’s Jürg Stutz said Wednesday morning.
“You can see where it started – it started right here in the floor,” Stutz said Dec. 19, pointing at the area of the dining room ceiling and kitchen floor firefighters ripped apart to get at the fire.
Employees were still in the kitchen, he added, so the fire was noticed quickly.
“It was open, but by the time it started all the guests were gone,” the winemaker said.
Restaurant employees “saw it at about 8:30 p.m. as smoke coming out in the kitchen underneath the stove.
“The (fire) crew was here in the shortest time,” he said. “They had it under control in not much time.”
Le Caveau will be closed until spring.
“We would have closed after New Year’s Eve anyway,” Stutz said, “and stay closed until May. So we are going to renovate and I’m sure we’ll have it ready by May. “
Luckily, Fredericks confirmed, the winemaking operation suffered no damage and wasn’t affected. In addition, no one was injured, even though Chef Jason Lynch and some of his staff were working at the time the fire broke out.
Lynch had sounded the alarm when smoke, not related to cooking, was detected.
While not 100 per cent sure of the cause of the fire, Fredericks said, “our best guess is either a problem with the heat transfers in the stove, or grease from the stove that may have dripped through the floor over time.”
At any rate, “it wasn’t electrical, and it isn’t considered suspicious.”
And according to the owner of the building, Hans Peter Stutz, the damage is covered by insurance.
Fredericks confirmed firefighters remained at the scene until about 1:30 a.m.