Fire guts Friendship Farm Market in Amity

Firefighters arriving on the scene spray water on a raging fire Sunday evening at Friendship Farm Market and Restaurant on Old Swede Road in Amity. The fire gutted the building. (John Strickler/The Mercury)

AMITY — More than a dozen fire companies responded to a fire that destroyed much of Friendship Farm Market on Route 662 Sunday night.

Firefighters responded quickly after those living near the restaurant heard a loud “boom,” saw a wall of flames and called 911 around 7:45 p.m.

“We heard a big boom. It sounded like a car backfiring,” said Jared Martz, who lives diagonally across the street from the restaurant. “It sounded like glass breaking.”

Going to the windows with his family, Martz said he saw an entire wall of the restaurant on the 700 block of Route 662 engulfed by flames which went about “20 feet in the air.”

They then called 911.

The Amity Fire and Rescue Company firehouse is about a half mile away and the first truck arrived at the scene in just three minutes. With the restaurant, which is closed for winter, fully engulfed, fire crews assessed the scene and support was quickly called in.

“Initial reports were fire through the roof of the structure,” said Amity Fire Company Chief Mike Zomolsky. “First truck in went in with a ground line. Second truck went to the hydrant, the hydrant was frozen so we went to tanker operations, which saved us because we had tankers on the road.”

Zomolsky said icy, snowy conditions like those Sunday night “hinder (operations) a lot.”

“What might take two guys takes four guys,” Zomolsky said.

Because the driveway was covered in snow, Zomolsky asked a pick-up truck with a snow plow to come in first and clear a path for incoming apparatus.

Firefighters had to evacuate the building twice.

“We evacuated to regroup. Conditions got worse,” Zomolsky said. “And once we realized we were out of water (because of the frozen hydrant), we made sure we had a water supply before we sent guys back in.”

A Monarch Fire Company quint truck was set up in the driveway, which Zomolsky said was instrumental to knocking down the flames, which originated in the restaurant’s rear.

The blaze was brought under control very quickly, taking just about 15 minutes to knock down most of it. Smoke continued to rise more than 100 feet in the air but gradually dissipated as crews continued to pour water from the ground and the quint truck’s ladder in the air.

There were no injuries reported in the fire. The inside of the restaurant was gutted and holes had to be cut in the roof by firefighters with chainsaws.

Crews began packing up around 10 p.m.

Initial reports came in that there was an explosion at the restaurant but Zomolsky said he could not confirm or deny that.

“When we pulled up there was a lot of fire,” he said.

Among the fire crews that responded in addition to Amity and Monarch were the Exeter, Boyertown, Eastern Berks, Birdsboro-Union and Pottstown fire departments and West End, Gilbertsville Fire and Rescue, Earl Township, Monocacy, Lower Alsace, Mohnton, Alsace Manor, Mount Penn, Oley and Gibraltar fire companies.

Southern Berks EMS and Goodwill Ambulance both also responded to the scene.

The fire is under investigation and Zomolsky said a state police fire marshal will likely be brought in to investigate.

Friendship Farm Market Restaurant was previously known as the Crab Shack and Sprinkles Drive-In before that.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.

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