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What you need to know for 01/21/2017

Sign fire won’t keep Schenectady cafe closed for holiday

Sign fire won’t keep Schenectady cafe closed for holiday

The old electric sign at a new cafe burst into flames during breakfast Thursday, but firefighters we
Sign fire won’t keep Schenectady cafe closed for holiday
The sign over the entrance to Lorenzo's Cafe in Schenectady caught fire Thursday, forcing the business to shut down until electrical service could be restored.

The old electric sign at a new cafe burst into flames during breakfast Thursday, but firefighters were able to save the building.

Lorenzo’s Cafe, which opened in January 2013, sat closed Thursday after the fire. But, as owner Matt Restifo said, it could have been far worse. And with quick work from an electrician, he was able to reopen today.

It was an electrical fire, which could have happened at any time. But it happened when the business was full of people who could notice the flames.

“We smelled smoke. We checked around, we looked everywhere. We couldn’t find anything,” Restifo said. “Then I pulled the attic door down.”

Looking up, it seemed the attic was full of smoke. He raced up the ladder, looking for fire, but still, there were no flames — just thick smoke.

Even firefighters couldn’t figure it out at first. They clambered through the many crawl spaces in the attic, trying to hunt down the source of the smoke. Meanwhile, Restifo’s customers gathered outside.

“We had to evacuate everyone out,” he said. “Then we saw the sign was on fire.”

He tried to find a silver lining in the fire.

“We were here. That’s the reason we found out. It could have been a lot worse,” he said.

Firefighters had to cut holes in the roof and rip down part of the sign, but were able to put out the fire without damaging the restaurant’s dining area or kitchen.

By mid-morning, fire investigators were coordinating with code enforcers to see whether the restaurant could reopen quickly. The only thing stopping Restifo was that power had been cut to the entire building to stop it from going to the sign.

He was able to quickly hire an electrician and get power restored to the rest of the building. That way, he could reopen even though the sign might not be fixed for weeks.

He was delighted. At first, it had looked like it would be a grim holiday.

“Fourth of July was huge last year,” he said. “People came in before their barbecues. I couldn’t believe how busy we were.”

When firefighters put out the fire, he just hoped he could get power to his coolers quickly enough to save the food. Then fire inspectors said they thought the code enforcers would let him reopen if he could get an electrician in before the holiday, and by Thursday afternoon he had everything in place for a Fourth of July reopening.

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