Village work tied to tavern fire

Photo by Patrick Stokes Firefighters and onlookers are pictured Monday outside Heenan's Irish Pub. A propane torch being used on weeds is believed to have ignited a fire that damaged the bar.

It appears work by the Fredonia village Department of Public Works may have contributed to Monday’s blaze at a downtown tavern. Officials confirmed a propane torch being used to kill weeds along sidewalks in Fredonia is believed to have sparked the fire that damaged Heenan’s Irish Pub.

Following an investigation by county investigators, the fire has been ruled accidental.

According to Chautauqua County Undersheriff Rich Telford, an individual had been using the torch to eradicate weeds along sidewalks in the village. Telford did not disclose who the individual was, but it has been confirmed the work was being done by a village employee outside Heenan’s at 39 E. Main St. shortly before the fire was discovered a little after 3 p.m.

It is believed, Telford said, the torch accidentally ignited material on the two-story structure that houses the bar before the fire worked its way up the interior wall.

In a statement from Mayor Doug Essek, village officials said Tuesday they are investigating the incident.

“The heat source was determined to be a flame torch used to burn grass and weeds in the sidewalk,” the statement said. “Similar to other municipalities in the state, the village utilizes hand torches to eradicate weeds in village-owned sidewalks. The village is currently investigating the use of the flame torch by village employees, along with its policies and protocols for the use of such tools in the maintenance of village sidewalks and areas. The village trustees and mayor are grateful for the immediate response from the Fire Department and support from the Chautauqua County Fire Investigation Team.”

Firefighters arrived Monday to find smoke coming from the structure’s roof. Those on the scene began tearing off siding and breaking through the walls on the south side where flames were visible from where the circuit box had been located.

By 4:15 p.m., members of the Fredonia Fire Department, Dunkirk Fire Department, East Dunkirk and Sheridan had the blaze under control.

Damage to the Eagle Street side of the building, however, was heavy.

Fredonia police officers and the village Department of Public Works also were at the scene Monday as the smoke showed from the top of the structure. Traffic on Main Street was diverted from Water Street to White Street for about two hours due to the fire.

Fredonia fire chief Joshua Myers praised the work by all to keep damage as minimal as possible. “Our guys got out in seconds and they had water on the fire within minutes,” he told the OBSERVER.

Shaun Heenan has overseen the bar for more than three decades. On its Facebook page, Heenan’s thanked first responders for saving the property.

“Thank you to the Fredonia, Dunkirk, East Dunkirk and Sheridan Fire Departments and the Fredonia Police Department for their quick response time and amazing hard work. You saved our business,” the establishment said on Facebook. “And a heartfelt thank you to our friends, family and loved ones who came to show support and love. We will reopen and welcome each one of you with open arms.”

Editor John D’Agostino contributed to this report.


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