Fire at popular Merced restaurant

FRESNO, Calif.

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One of Downtown Merced's most popular restaurants is closed after an early morning fire caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

If the owner decides to rebuild it could take several months before De-Angelo's is back up and running. The fire damaged nearly the restaurant's entire interior.

People eager for a night out at downtown Merced's De-Angelo's Italian restaurant left shocked Saturday after reading this sign posted on the door.

An early morning fire caused an estimated $400,000 in damage forcing the iconic eatery to close.

"Huhh, well, we have to find another place to eat. It's disappointing isn't it? Yeah, it's disappointing"

Fire crews were called out to the popular restaurant around 6-am when witnesses heard the alarm go off and then noticed smoke billowing in the sky.

"Then the smoke started coming out of the roof of the building and the fire department was here immediately trying to put the fire out."

Fire investigators say the fire started in one room and that most of the damage is smoke related, including soot covered furniture and smoke damaged walls.

More than 20 firefighters were able to contain the blaze before it spread to businesses nearby.

"Basically, they were able to put it out very quickly. In fact, upon my arrival I was concerned we would have a significant fire or potential burnout because the large volume of fire we had showing from the roof vents were all showing flames."

De-Angelo's has been a main street fixture since 1995.

Longtime bar manager, Scott Hawkins says Saturday morning's fire is more damaging to his employees and the community, then the building itself. "This loss is huge to the community. Deangelo's has been around a long time. There's not a day that goes by that I don't see somebody I know on a regular basis that comes in here."

"I think less people are going to be around here because that restaurant really is popular."

No one was inside at the time. The cause is still under investigation.

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