Massive Fire Devours Block of Greenville Avenue

Firefighter injured while battling blaze

By Frank Heinz
|  Tuesday, Mar 2, 2010  |  Updated 10:18 PM CDT
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Terilli's Restaurant and three other businesses destroyed in fire.

NBCDFW.com

Terilli's Restaurant and three other businesses destroyed in fire.

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Employees, Customers Mourn Restaurants Lost in Fire

Four Greenville Avenue institutions were destroyed in an early-morning fire.

"The Worst News You Could Wake Up To"

A fire broke out just before dawn on lower Greenville, devouring the block and four popular restaurants.
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A fire broke out just before dawn on lower Greenville Tuesday and quickly spread throughout the building, devouring the block and four popular restaurants, officials said.

The fire was first reported at about 5:45 a.m., and when firefighters arrived, they reported flames leaping 30 to 40 feet into the sky, officials said.

At 6:01 a.m. had been elevated to four alarms as the fire ripped through several businesses, including Terilli's Restaurant & Bar, Mick's Pub, the Hurricane Grill and the Greenville Bar and Grill along the 2800 block of Greenville Avenue near Goodwin Avenue.

The fire was initially believed to have started in Terilli's, but investigators later said they could only say the fire began in the south end of the building. The blaze quickly spread through the shared attic, and the entire roof collapsed, fire officials said.

"Once that fire hit that attic space, it was free to travel all the way to the end," Fire Chief Stuart Grant said.

The exact ignition point has not been determined. Fire officials said that debris from the collapse will have to be removed with heavy equipment before a thorough investigation can begin.

Terilli's was cited by fire inspectors about six weeks ago for having petroleum gas containers too close to the entrance of the building. But fire officials said it is too soon to say if that played any role in Tuesday's blaze.

Gregg Merkow, who owns two restaurants in the area, said he "raced down here to see smoke bellowing out of my bar."

Amanda Ahern, co-owner of Terilli's, said the fire was "probably the worst news you could wake up to." Her family's restaurant would have celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

"This is all we've ever known for so long," she said. "I mean, I was cashiering here when I was 13."

Fire officials said the fire was contained by 7 a.m. but not extinguished until later in the morning. Greenville Avenue was closed while firefighters battled the blaze.

Neighbors in the M Streets and Vickery Park area were also devastated to wake up and see local favorites going up in flames.

"I moved here 18 years ago because of this. Friends come over, we walk up here. [We've had] many, many company meetings that happen at Terilli’s -- a beer afterwards at one of the other bars. It’s just devastating," said Mark Rieve, Vickery Park resident.

Matt Gorusch, who lives not far from the building, said the flames looked like they were shooting six stories in the air.

"I was worried for my family, that the flames would spread to our house," he said. "That’s the reason I came up here."

The historic building was built in the 1930s. Crews are working to leave the front facade of the building intact as much as possible.

"You don't see buildings constructed like this anymore, so it's a loss," City Councilwoman Angela Hunt said. "I'm just glad no one was hurt."

But it remains to be seen how much, if any, of the building can be salvaged when it's rebuilt.

"You just can't replicate some of that that's there and the historical significance," Grant said.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, officials said. His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

The lower Greenville Avenue area, east of downtown Dallas, is home to a string of restaurants, eclectic shops, clubs and bars.

The fire came two weeks before the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, one of Greenville Avenue's biggest events. But organizers said this year's parade will take place as scheduled March 13 at 11 a.m.

If you have photos from the fire, send them to us at iSee@nbcdfw.com.

NBC DFW's Lindsay Wilcox, Randy McIlwain and Ellen Goldberg contributed to this report.

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