Cleanup begins after fire ravages Westmount building

The cleanup has started after a fire that firefighters say began in the wood stove chimney of celebrity chef Antonio Park's restaurant Lavanderia ravaged the building on Greene Avenue in Westmount.

Firefighters say carbon accumulated in Lavanderia wood stove's chimney caught fire

Firefighters returned to the scene of a fire in Westmount Monday morning. The fire damaged a building that houses a number of businesses, including two popular restaurants. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The cleanup has started after a fire Sunday evening ravaged a Westmount building that houses a number of businesses, including a couple of high-end restaurants.

The building is home to the popular Lavanderia and Park, both owned by celebrity chef Antonio Park, as well as a gym and Japanese grocery store Miyamoto Épicerie Japonaise.

When reached by CBC Sunday night, an emotional Park spoke about his two "babies," saying he built them with his own two hands.

Martine Bergeron is the general manager at Lavanderia and was there when the fire broke out.

Martine Bergeron, the general manager at Westmount's Lavanderia restaurant, said staff tried to put out the fire but eventually had to leave. (Kate McKenna/CBC)
She said Monday morning that everything inside the restaurant started to shake, then it got hot and staff spotted the flames.

They went to get the fire extinguisher but realized quickly they needed to evacuate the restaurant.

"It felt like it was going to just blow up, so we ran, told the customers to leave, and we ran outside and saw the fire," she said.

There were six customers inside at the time.

$100,000 damage, at least

John Primiani, chief of operations for the Montreal fire department, said the fire started in the kitchen at Lavanderia.

Primiani said carbon that had accumulated in the chimney of a wood-burning stove caught fire. The flames then made their way to the roof.
About 120 firefighters were called to the scene of the fire Sunday evening. It took them a few hours to douse the flames. (CBC)

"The time-consuming problem was bringing the water up and opening the roof and making sure every part of the roof is extinguished, and trying to limit the damage from the water on the lower floors," he said.

Damage is estimated at $100,000, though that figure is nearly certain to rise, he said.

Westmount resident Marie-Christine Dufour heard the sirens Sunday evening, but it wasn't until Monday morning that she went to take a look at the damage.
Westmount resident Marie-Christine Dufour said losing Lavanderia and Park would be a real loss to the neighbourhood. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

"It's a fantastic restaurant. Lavanderia is one of my favourites in the neighborhood [and] in town," she said.

Norelle Cooper also lives in the area and could smell the smoke from her home Sunday evening.

"We had good restaurants here, but those two were the most popular, I would think. Certainly when I've gone to Park, I've taken friends from out of town, and they enjoy it immensely," she said, adding she hopes it will reopen soon.

Next steps

Bergeron said the restaurant teams were to meet Monday to determine what the next steps will be. While Park may reopen within a week, the timetable may be longer for Lavanderia.

Chef Antonio Park, centre, speaks to his employees Monday morning. The building that houses both his restaurants was heavily damaged by fire Sunday evening. (Charles Contant/CBC)
"We're a family, so I'm not worried for a second," she said, adding she believes that Park will find people jobs if it takes longer than first thought to reopen.

"He's going to do everything he can, I know that," she said.

with files from CBC's Kate McKenna and Daybreak