Nova Scotia

Austrian Inn in Dayton, near Yarmouth, destroyed by fire

The building that housed the Austrian Inn had been in the community since the 1940s. It has housed numerous businesses, including a dance hall.

'It's kind of hard to see your family's legacy go up in smoke,' says Alfred Hartman Posnak Jr.

The Austrian Inn is in Dayton, a few kilometres north of Yarmouth. The Posnak family has owned the restaurant for 34 years. (Hartley Reede/Facebook)

The Austrian Inn, a restaurant and local landmark in Yarmouth County, has burned to the ground. 

"I'm kind of at a loss for words," said Alfred Hartman Posnak Jr., whose parents own the restaurant.

"I started working there as a cook with my father when I was 12 years old. I'm a 47-year-old chef now, so it's kind of hard to see your family's legacy go up in smoke."

The Austrian Inn is in Dayton, a few kilometres north of Yarmouth. Posnak's family has owned the restaurant for 34 years.

Posnak heard about the fire at 2 a.m. on Wednesday and drove to the site. 

"They had the tall ladders spraying down on it," he told CBC News. "The only thing recognizable was the big, old-time fireplace. Everything else was just levelled."

No one was in the building at the time of the fire and no one was injured, according to the Yarmouth Fire Department. The cause of the fire has not been determined. 

The Austrian Inn had just reopened this year after shutting down in 2012 because of reduced tourist traffic. Posnak said the restaurant was doing well this year and was going to close for the season on Sunday. 

Fire was fast moving, difficult to extinguish

John Verrall, the chief of the Yarmouth Fire Department, said crews were called to the two-storey building at around 1 a.m.

He said there were flames and heavy smoke inside the building when firefighters arrived. A pair of firefighters went into the building and tried to douse the flames, but they ran into trouble.

The chief of the Yarmouth Fire Department said at one point, there were as many as 40 firefighters working to get the blaze under control. (Hartley Reede/Facebook)

"They had to pull out because of the conditions. Once they pulled out, about 30 seconds later, the fire went through the roof," said Varrell.

Once the fire broke through the roof, it gained speed and intensity. 

"It was a fast burning fire, an older building so it was fast burning. Older buildings — especially with all the wood inside — are going to be like that," Verrall said.

About five other fire departments were called in to help. Verrall said at one point, there were as many as 40 firefighters working to get the blaze under control.

When Varrell got to the scene, he wasn't optimistic about the chances of saving the building. 

"When I got there it was totally engulfed. There was one portion of the building that was still standing, but it was unsaveable," he said.

It took about four hours to put out the fire. Only the foundation of the building remains. 

Building was a local landmark 

Murray Goodwin, the warden of the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, said the building that housed the Austrian Inn had been in the community since the 1940s. It has housed numerous businesses, including a dance hall. 

"Everybody knew where the Austrian Inn was," he said.

"Every time you lose a little business it has an impact on your community. It's also sad to see a landmark that's been there so many years — and a fine eating establishment like that — just go up in flames."      

​The building was insured, but Posnak doubts his father will want to rebuild. 

"Dad's 75, mom's 77," he said. "It's hard to rebuild something like that. It took a lifetime to build and in a few hours it just went up in smoke."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now