BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — IPSWICH — Firefighters Jeremy Dalton and Peter Nich were battling an early morning fire at the Stone Soup Cafe yesterday when Lt. Sean Cronin looked up and saw an ominous sign.
The lighthouse, a decorative addition to the restaurant where much of the fire was raging, was about to collapse.
Cronin, a 25-year veteran of the Ipswich Fire Department who recently passed a program to become a certified fire ground safety officer, ran over to his colleagues and pulled them away from the building. Seconds later, the lighthouse crashed to the ground where they had been standing.
“It literally landed right where they were,” Acting Fire Chief Jeffrey French said. “Had Lt. Cronin not been paying attention and doing an effective job of surveying the scene at all times, I think we would’ve lost two firefighters. I credit him with saving those two guys.”
The fire caused an undetermined amount of damage to the restaurant, which had been slated to close on Sunday and reopen in October as an upscale Mexican restaurant.
Located at 141 High St. down the road from Ipswich High School, Stone Soup has been run by Mark and Stefani Macklin at that location since 2009, after moving from the corner of Central and Market streets where it had been since 1994. The Macklins could not be reached for comment.
According to online records, the building is owned by Christopher Pescione, who owned Marco Polo, the restaurant formerly located at the site. The building was built in 1958 and is assessed at $767,900.
The fire broke out at about 3:48 a.m. on Friday and drew firefighters from Topsfield, Hamilton and Rowley as well as Ipswich, about 30 firefighters in all.
Firefighters pulled down ceilings in the dining area in order to get at the fire as it extended into the roof’s overhangs, French said. He said the fire was knocked down by 4:29 a.m.
“All the crews did a great job,” French said. “It was impressive to see it come together.”
The building was unoccupied and no injuries were reported. French said he did not have an estimate on the amount of damage to the building.
French said the cause of the fire is under investigation. It does not appear to be suspicious, he said.
The 141 High St. location has also been the site of the Salt Box and White Cap restaurants.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.