Quick action by firefighters saved a landmark restaurant that caught fire in the village Saturday, averting a potential disaster for the local couple who just bought the place.
Fire damage was confined to the attic at the former Black Pearl Inn. The two-story inn and restaurant at 522 U.S. Route 20 also sustained water damage to lower floors following the accidental blaze sparked by a blowtorch being used for roof repairs.
Sharon Springs Fire Chief Greg Baxter said smoke was so heavy when he arrived it was difficult to even see the building.
The fire put the nearby Stewart’s Shop at risk, but Baxter said several factors came into play that made it possible to cut the flames down quickly.
A fire chief from neighboring Cherry Valley was nearby when roof repairs touched off the fire around 4 p.m. Saturday, Baxter said. And two Sharon Springs firefighters who arrived moments later had a choice — wait for fellow Sharon Springs firefighters or put out a call for mutual aid, he said.
They called out for help immediately.
“They really did a good job getting mutual aid,” Baxter said.
Another key factor: The fire hydrant across the street, tied to the village’s century-old water system, functioned perfectly, he said.
The large, two-story building with its distinctive stone porch has changed hands numerous times since it was built in 1933 and has been a restaurant for decades, Baxter said.
It’ll be a restaurant once again despite this weekend’s setback, said Fay Hall, who, with her husband, John, plans to reopen the venue this year.
It’ll return as The Great Western Grill, serving steaks and seafood, she said Monday.
“We are still planning on going ahead with our plans,” she said.
Hall said the blaze will likely set renovation plans back at least a month and carpets will need replacing, but she remains optimistic.
“It’s an old, historic building. It’s still standing. That’s all that matters,” she said.
The restaurant sits in a prominent location where state Route 10 and U.S. Route 20 meet, just uphill from Sharon Springs’ Main Street district, where developers are planning major work on a historic bathhouse.
It sits opposite the NBT Bank and the post office, and is visible from the Sharon Springs school campus.
In addition to the Sharon Springs department, Baxter said firefighters from three counties sped to the scene: the Ames Fire Department from Montgomery County; the Cherry Valley department in Otsego County; and the Cobleskill and Carlisle departments in Schoharie County.
Firefighters left the scene just after 7 p.m., Baxter said.