Old restaurant suffers heavy fire damage

BELMONT – A vacant restaurant building in Pleasants County suffered heavy damage following a fire Tuesday morning.

Firefighters from the Belmont and St. Marys volunteer fire departments responded to a fire at the former Highway Grill, just off West Virginia 2 in Belmont Tuesday morning. Belmont VFD Chief Randy Whitehair said crews from Belmont were called out just before 3:30 a.m. When crews arrived on-scene flames were shooting out the windows of the upstairs apartment, he said.

“It was coming out everywhere,” Whitehair said.

Assistant Chief Bill Hyre said it appeared the fire started in the southern, front corner of the apartment, facing the road.

“It was showing the heaviest when we arrived on scene,” he said.

The apartment is accessed via an outside stairway in the back of the building.

Traffic on W.Va. 2 was blocked for several hours as firefighters worked the scene. Hyre said the road had to be closed to allow crews access to the water supply, across the street. Traffic was open to one lane around 6 a.m.

Fire crews cleared the scene just after 8 a.m. Hyre and Whitehair said the structure suffered heavy damage, estimating three quarters of the building was a total loss. The apartment appeared to be a total loss, and the restaurant area suffered heavy water damage.

The state fire marshal’s office is conducting an investigation.

The structure, last used as a bar and grill, had been closed for about a year, according to fire officials. It was vacant with no utilities. Fire crews referred to the building as the old Highway Grill. Officials in Belmont were unsure who owned the building.

“It has changed hands so many times,” Hyre said. “It’s an eyesore.”