METRO VANCOUVER - A spectacular blaze early Thursday morning gutted two restaurants and closed down a busy strip mall in Coquitlam.
Crews were called to Sushi Mori restaurant in Eagle Ridge Square around 1:30 a.m. after Coquitalm Mounties noticed smoke coming from the business.
Firefighters found the fire in a false ceiling in the restaurant, located in the 2500 block of Barnet Highway, but conditions started to deteriorate, so crews had to fight the fire from the outside.
Fire chief Wade Pierlot explained the mall didn't have any firewalls so crews had to build a trench to stop the flames.
However, the fire did spread to the neighbouring Pallas Athena Greek restaurant.
At one point, flames were shooting from the roof as high as the neighbouring trees, while 30 firefighters were called out to battle the blaze.
Eventually, crews got a handle on the blaze, but not before the fire destroyed the two restaurants and damaged two more businesses in the mall.
A jewelry store and hair and nails salon suffered smoke and water damage as a result of the fire and by daylight, the destruction to the strip mall was evident.
"It's a pretty big fire for us," Pierlot said, noting that no one was injured in the blaze.
"It certainly had the potential to spread to all of the businesses there."
Angelo Mazzarolo owns the Pallas Athena restaurant and said he got the call around two o'clock in the morning from the security company.
By the time he arrived on scene 20 minutes later, he said flames were shooting from the building.
"I'm surprised how fast it went up," Mazzarolo told the Tri-Cities NOW.
He said Wednesday was a normal day, noting his son closed up the restaurant at around 10 p.m.
Mazzarolo, a general contractor, bought and made major renovations to the business four years ago.
"It was just starting to turn a profit, then this happen," he said, noting his own business is insured for about half million dollars.
The restaurant employed 14 people.
Mazzarolo said he's not sure what the future holds for his business or employees, but said it's doubtful he would rebuild in the same strip mall.
As for the cause, fire chief Pierlot said Thursday it was too early to tell, but there was nothing to suggest it was suspicious.
He pointed out the fire was found in the sushi restaurant, but could have started elsewhere.
Investigators were expected to be on scene all day, while fire officials were hoping to have the remaining businesses up and running within a day.