NORTH STRABANE TWP. (KDKA) — Patrons are coming together to offer their support following a devastating fire that destroyed a popular Washington County restaurant last night.

Fast-moving flames forced workers and patrons to flee from Frankie I’s Bar & Grille in North Strabane Township around 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The fire started in the kitchen area of the building, which is believed to be more than 100 years old. Although employees tried to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher, they couldn’t put it out.

“As soon as the fire extinguisher didn’t put it out, Frankie yelled, ‘Get out of the building,’ and everybody grabbed their things and we were out in the parking lot looking up basically,” shift manager Mike Leasure explained. “The roof was already on fire.”

When firefighters arrived, the building was already fully engulfed.

“When our first unit arrived on the scene, we went to defensive mode,” North Strabane Fire Chief Mark Grimm told KDKA. “Everybody was out and due to the age of the construction of the building, we weren’t going to get any of our guys in trouble.”

The chief praised the owner and employees for getting everyone out of the building safely. “There was about fifteen customers and probably about five employees,” Grimm added. “The staff and owner did an excellent job of getting everyone out.”

News of the fire spread quickly through the community and dozens of people flocked to Frankie I’s Facebook page to offer condolences, well-wishes and some even offered to pitch in and help in any way they can.

The owner told KDKA-TV that he’s still deciding whether or not to rebuild; but he added that he’s very grateful that the fire didn’t happen on a night when 200 to 300 patrons were inside.

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