Cause of Ruthie’s fire remains ‘undetermined’

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 11/24/21

ROSEBUD — A week after fire destroyed the popular Ruthie’s Family Restaurant in Rosebud, a cause was still listed as “undetermined.”  

Gerald-Rosebud Chief Warren …

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Cause of Ruthie’s fire remains ‘undetermined’

Posted

ROSEBUD — A week after fire destroyed the popular Ruthie’s Family Restaurant in Rosebud, a cause was still listed as “undetermined.”  

Gerald-Rosebud Chief Warren Weiss said the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s investigator told him the fire apparently originated “up high in the kitchen area.” 

Weiss said employees who were working earlier that night were called back to the scene to be interviewed. All the employees were gone from the site when the fire was reported by a passing motorist around 10:10 p.m. Nov. 16, he said.

Although cause of the fire remains undetermined a week later, it “didn’t look suspicious,” said Weiss.

Rosebud Police Chief Mason Griffith said he had not heard from the fire marshal’s investigator since the fire.

“They were there at the scene,” Griffith said. “They haven’t made a determination yet. I have seen them take a while. The fire marshal hasn’t contacted us back for anything and normally won’t unless there is something suspicious. They normally work with property owners.”

The first fire crews responding worked to extinguish the fire which rapidly spread into the attic space beneath the tin roof. The fire continued to spread and a second alarm call went out at 10:30 p.m. to other area departments requesting more manpower and equipment. Ten area fire protection districts and department and 26 fire trucks were eventually on scene. 

The Union Fire Protection District provided a ladder truck to access the metal roof and cut a hole above the dining room to help ventilate the fire.

Weiss said firemen cut a ventilation hole in an effort to “push fire” — trapped between two false ceilings — toward the hole.

“They created a flow path,” said Weiss. “They created a flow path for the fire to follow and it worked.”

Firemen were also hampered by a steady wind that evening.

“It was wind-driven fire which makes it even more dangerous,” said Weiss. “It was really windy Tuesday night. Those are always your most dangerous fires.”

But, antique fixtures in the dining area and the bar itself were salvageable, he noted. The dining area had extensive smoke damage. 

“I’m surprised we even saved that place,” Weiss said. “They went in and aggressively fought it and it’s still standing. There was a lot of manpower and equipment there that night and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Weiss called for, and received, assistance from 10 tankers which were needed to shuttle water from Owensville and Gerald since the town’s water supply comes from one water tower. 

Firemen also had to contend with numerous “concealed spaces” between the roof line and several false ceilings.

“Those just make it three times more difficult to fight a fire,” said Weiss describing the building’s numerous additions and dropped ceilings. “They got up there trying to fight it as best they could. They just couldn’t see it up there under the ceilings.”

Weiss said Jack Clark, assistant chief for the Gerald-Rosebud fire district, was first on the scene and reported “heavy fire”  coming from the rear of the building.

“The building was like a maze of rooms with all the additions,” he added.

Tankers from Gerald-Rosebud Fire Protection District, Beaufort-Leslie Fire Protection District, Owensville Volunteer Fire Department, Union Fire Protection District, Bland Fire Protection District, Belle Volunteer Fire Department, Linn Fire Protection District, Hermann Area Volunteer Fire Department, New Haven-Berger Fire Protection District and Sullivan Fire Protection District traveled to Owensville and Gerald, repeatedly refilling and returning to the scene on the west end of U.S. 50 in Rosebud into the early-morning hours.

The fire was reported under control at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday morning with firefighters containing the damage to the original building, leaving the new addition — including the bar — with minimal fire damage. No injuries were reported.

A Rosebud transportation firm, X Ccelerator Transporting, provided a forklift to help remove the metal wall panel so an Owensville fire crew could access the back of the buildings with a deck cannon.

The Steve LaFrance family revitalized the business over the last two years after Klines was sold and closed. The LaFrance family posted on Ruthie’s Family Restaurant Facebook page on Nov. 19, “We would like to thank all of the first responders on the scene, Gerald-Rosebud Fire Protection District, and all of the surrounding areas that helped save what they could. Thank you to all of our family, friends, and community that has reached out. We truly appreciate all of you.”

(With reporting by Roxie Murphy and Jacob Warden of The Republican’s staff)

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