QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) -- Fire investigators say that the early morning Thursday fire that destroyed Sprout's Inn is not suspicious in nature.
Firefighters tell WGEM News that a cause has not yet been determined in the fire. The restaurant is considered a total loss after the ceiling collapsed during the blaze.
"It's been horrible," Sprout's Inn owner Jenny Wiemelt said. "Just losing my dad (Patrick McClean) and losing this piece of history on top of it is just been horrific. But when I turned around this morning and seen my employees behind me and supporting me and urging me to keep strong and to rebuild...things happen and it's okay."
"We'll just make it better and it's going to be okay."
Wiemelt's father, Patrick McClean, was the second of three generations of family to own the restaurant. Other employees who have been at the restaurant for decades share Wiemelt's emotion.
"It was just very shocking to see something like that," Mike Vahle, a 43-year employee of the restaurant, said. "For three generations, to see it burn down like that...just heartbreaking."
"I stood in that street and just cried," Patti Kelly, who has worked at Sprout's Inn for nearly 35 years, said. "I couldn't get over it. It's devastating."
Firefighters responded to the scene at 2814 N. 12th Street around 1 a.m. Thursday. Henning said the department had a late response time because crews were already dispatched to another call on the north end of town on Sycamore.
"Upon arrival, they were met by some cleaning crews and said there was a fire in the kitchen area," Henning said. "They opened up a wall space and found (walls) heavily charged with smoke, so they knew they had a fire in the wall space."
"Wherever it was, it was in a spot we couldn't easily get to," QFD Assistant Fire Chief James Pioch said. "It vented through the roof on its own at that point and we had an air conditioning unit go through the roof. That enabled the fire that was smoldering to get some air and the whole roof lit up along the roofline.
Henning says crews used special tools to try and remove the ceiling to get to the fire, but found that the roof had multiple layer from several rounds of remodeling.
The brick walls of the building are still standing, but the entire ceiling has collapsed to the ground.
"Take crews in with what we call a pike pole which is a tool to remove ceilings. They went in with a 2 1/2-inch line and they were trying to pull the ceiling to get to the fire," Henning said. "It was complicated by the fact there was multiple layers of ceilings and roofs from remodels time and time again so just when they think they'd get through a layer, there would encounter another one."
Firefighters tell WGEM News they believe the fire possibly started in the wall and escalated quickly. The building was soon fully engulfed.
Sprout's Inn has been in place at its 12th Street location since 1948. Wiemelt says they will rebuild in the same location. The restaurant employs over 70 people.
"We will rebuild and be back here again," Vahle said.
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