NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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March 15, 2009

Firefighters douse vent fire, save downtown building

NEWBURYPORT — A fire in the cooking ventilation system of Glenn’s Restaurant and Cool Bar last night briefly sent flames shooting from the roof at 44 Merrimac St. before it was contained by firefighters, who initially feared its potential to destroy a building that’s stood on the waterfront since 1915.

Trucks from three surrounding towns were called in to help Newburyport firemen battle the blaze, and though the building sustained some damage, the feeling of first responders is that it could have been much worse.

At approximately 8:45 p.m. at the height of the restaurants’ Saturday night dinner rush, kitchen staff reported they heard the telltale sounds of a blaze breaking out in the cooking vent. They recognized the problem and sought immediately to shut down the ducts and keep the unseen fire contained to the first floor of the building.

“All we heard is a great big ‘whoosh,’ ” said Mark Armour, one of the cooks working in the kitchen at Glenn’s last night. “There was nothing we could do. The alarm went off and (firetrucks) were on their way.”

The restaurant and bar, owned and operated by Glenn Mayers and Charlene Ferreira, was at full capacity at the time.

“It’s the busiest night of the week,” said Armour.

Attempts were made, said Armour, to fight and contain the fire with an extinguisher kept on hand in the kitchen. In fact, one of the restaurants that night was the city’s wiring inspector, David Zinck, who reportedly became involved in that effort. But when it became evident those efforts were failing, the decision was made to evacuate the restaurant.

“We got everyone out as fast as we could,” said Armour.

Bob and Eleanor Noonan of Winthrop were enjoying their night out at Glenn’s when they smelled smoke no more pungent than if it were coming from a fireplace.

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