By Ross Guidotti

ARNOLD (KDKA) — Clean-up is underway after a fire destroyed a popular, long-time restaurant in Westmoreland County.

Ida’s Place in Arnold went up in flames on Wednesday afternoon when a fire broke out in the kitchen. It took firefighters more than an hour to get it under control.

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The restaurant was left in ruins and the building next door sustained smoke and water damage.

On Thursday, cars drove by one after another to see what is left of the restaurant. But while a lot of people have been gawking, others have been stepping up to help the restaurant owner.

Burnt, blackened timber and busted windows are all that’s left of Ida’s Place. But there’s still some treasures being saved from the ruins.

Michelle Swift and Steven Kurtz spent the morning scrubbing soot off pictures that were not destroyed by the fire. Both volunteers are not related to Ida Peluso, just patrons of her restaurant.

“This is what I can do. I just want to help her,” Swift said. “She has a wonderful personality, so welcoming when you came into the restaurant.”

Dorothy Miller has opened up her furniture store to hold items salvaged from the fire. She and the restaurant’s owner are like sisters.

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“She’s one of my best friends,” said Miller. “I’ve been in business for 41 years, she’s been in business for 31 [years]. We eat there all the time. She’s up at my store.”

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Like Miller, Matt Colaianni is a very close friend of Peluso’s. Her business may be gone, but friends are not something she’s short on.

“People are driving in from Kittanning just to console her and tell her how much they care about her,” Colaianni said.

The fire started in the kitchen, and right now, the cost of damage is not known. A GoFundMe page is now set up.

As for the future of her restaurant, friends say don’t underestimate Peluso.

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“She’s been through a lot in her life. She’s a fighter,” said Colaianni. “If she’s able to start over. I believe she will.”