Weed work by village employee linked to pub fire | News, Sports, Employment

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Firefighters and bystanders are pictured outside Heenan’s Irish Pub on Monday. A propane torch used for weed control is believed to have started a fire that damaged the bar. Photo by Patrick Stokes

FREDONIA — It appears that work by the Town of Fredonia Public Works Department may have contributed to Monday’s fire at a downtown tavern. Officials confirmed that a propane torch used to kill weeds on Fredonia sidewalks is believed to have started the fire that damaged Heenan’s Irish Pub.

After an investigation by county investigators, the fire has been ruled accidental.

According to Chautauqua County Undersheriff Rich Telford, a person had been using the torch to eradicate weeds from the town’s sidewalks. Telford did not reveal who the individual was, but it has been confirmed that the work was performed by a village employee outside Heenan’s at 39 E. Main St. shortly before the fire was discovered a little after 3 p.m.

It is believed, Telford said, that the torch accidentally ignited material in the two-story structure that houses the bar before the fire spread through the interior wall.

In a statement from Mayor Doug Essek, village officials said Tuesday they are investigating the incident.

“The source of the heat was determined to be a flame torch used to burn grass and weeds on the sidewalk.” said the statement. “Like other municipalities in the state, the village uses hand torches to eradicate weeds on village-owned sidewalks. The village is currently investigating the use of the flame torch by village employees, along with their policies and protocols for the use of these tools in the maintenance of sidewalks and village areas.The village administrators and the mayor are grateful for the immediate response of the fire department and the support of the team of Chautauqua County Fire Investigation.”

Firefighters arrived Monday to find smoke coming from the roof of the structure. Those on the scene began tearing away the siding and breaking down the walls on the south side where the flames could be seen from where the circuit box had been located.

By 4:15 p.m., members of the Fredonia Fire Department, Dunkirk, East Dunkirk and Sheridan Fire Departments had the fire under control.

Damage to the Eagle Street side of the building, however, was severe.

Fredonia police officers and the village’s Department of Public Works were also at the scene Monday as smoke billowed from the top of the structure. Traffic on Carrer Major was diverted from Carrer de l’Aigua to Carrer Blanc for about two hours due to the fire.

Fredonia Fire Chief Joshua Myers praised everyone’s work to keep the damage to a minimum. “Our guys were out in seconds and had water on the fire in minutes,” he told the OBSERVER.

Shaun Heenan has overseen the bar for over three decades. On his Facebook page, Heenan thanked first responders for saving the property.

“Thank you to the Fredonia, Dunkirk, East Dunkirk and Sheridan Fire Departments and the Fredonia Police Department for your quick response time and incredible hard work. You saved our business.” the establishment said on Facebook. “And a heartfelt thank you to our friends, family and loved ones who came out to show their support and love. We will reopen and welcome each and every one of you with open arms.”

Editor John D’Agostino contributed to this report.

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