Bad wiring cited in fire at Heritage Restaurant

02/22/2011 12:00 AM

02/22/2011 6:14 AM

Regulars of the Heritage Restaurant keep stopping by the popular south Wichita business, oblivious to the fire that heavily damaged the structure Friday afternoon.

One customer pulled into the parking lot Monday morning and blamed the nearly empty parking lot on "a late-arriving crowd," said Rod Engstrand, who is serving as a general contractor for the clean-up and restoration of the Heritage.

Fire investigators suspect faulty wiring started the fire that caused an estimated $250,000 in damage to the structure and contents at the Heritage, 4551 S. Broadway. The blaze broke out at about 3 p.m. Friday.

The fire appears to have started in structural space beneath the roof, Wichita Fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said, but investigators are awaiting the results of an analysis by an electrical engineer.

Firefighters had to peel back portions of the restaurant's tin roof to get at a smoldering fire feeding on combustible subroofing, Bevis said.

Authorities said there was one person inside the Heritage when the fire started, along with several customers in Club Deb Ricks next door.

The Heritage has consistently been the state's largest seller of Kansas Lottery tickets, as well as a popular destination for fans of Keno.

Engstrand, who said he is working with Heritage owner Michael Choi and building owner Tom Yun, said he hopes to have the Heritage open for business again in about 30 days.

The neighborhood — and lottery players — will miss it during the intervening period, he said.

"It does act as a meeting place for a lot of people," Engstrand said.

They come for breakfast or a morning cup of coffee or to have lunch or just hang out and play keno or the lottery, he said.

The building is still structurally sound, he said, so it will just be a matter of replacing smoke- and water-damaged materials and replacing or repairing the roof.

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