PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Smoke billowed from Nicholas Coffee for the second time this year as a stubborn fire broke out around noon Friday.
It’s the second fire for the Market Square landmark this year. In February, the roaster at Nicholas Coffee burst into flames.
“[The February fire] had something to do with one of their roasters and the venting process for the roasters,” Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones said.
KDKA’s Paul Martino Reports —
Investigators are looking to see if that was the cause this time.
“I don’t know [if the same thing caused Friday’s fire]. I can’t say that for sure,” Jones said. “It’s under investigation, but it looks very similar.”
The fire was out around 1:30 p.m., but it was difficult to fight because flames were trapped in the walls. Officials say that one bystander was treated for smoke inhalation. No other injuries were reported.
It was a crazy lunch hour scene as thousands of people gathered for lunch and were greeted with sirens, smoke and firefighters.
It was bad news for neighboring businesses that were forced to close. Matt Lefleur, a waiter at NOLA, lost at least a day’s pay.
“We needed to evacuate. We told our manager we saw police coming by, and we evacuated,” he said.
For firefighters, it was grueling. They had to climb on the roof and chop holes to get the fire out.
Hot weather put firefighters at risk. Officials kept a close watch on the guys to make sure they didn’t overheat.
“It’s very hot. Very humid,” Jones said. “So when we’re dressed out with all the gear on, we weigh an extra 80 to 100 pounds, so it’s like wearing a snowsuit on a day like today, then going outside, going for a jog.”
But for the thousands who joined the Friday afternoon lunch crowd, it was happening. The band played on, and the crowd turned into gawkers.
Nicholas Coffee took the brunt of the damage, but the adjacent buildings received smoke and water damage.
One of the businesses damaged in the fire was Denham and Company hair stylists, upstairs in the Nicholas Coffee building. The owner said he doesn’t know what, if anything, can be salvaged.
Tim Denham told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti, “It’s destroyed, it’s destroyed. The ceiling is down, the walls are ripped out, and the floor is flooded.”
About a dozen customers and hair stylists were in Denham’s when the fire broke out.
Co-owner Rick Astle said, “Five more minutes of being inside and everybody would have been killed. We had clients with color on their heads. Luckily, everybody was able to get out okay.”
The fire also forced nearby restaurants like NOLA and Perle to close.
“Just made plans to come to NOLA about 15 minutes ago, I’m still waiting for my friends. I guess I’ll be going elsewhere, but I don’t know where,” customer Jenny Manning said.
The cause of the fire remains undetermined.