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Fire damages south Wichita businesses

Wichita firefighters clean up after extinguishing a fire at Alberto’s Pizzeria near Seneca and 31st Street South Thursday night. Fire was found in the attic space, with smoke also spreading to Marchello’s Restaurant next door.
Wichita firefighters clean up after extinguishing a fire at Alberto’s Pizzeria near Seneca and 31st Street South Thursday night. Fire was found in the attic space, with smoke also spreading to Marchello’s Restaurant next door. Stan Finger

Ed Caillet stood on the sidewalk, his feet antsy, his eyes trying to pierce the darkness to get a look inside his restaurant.

Alberto’s Pizzeria caught fire late Thursday night in the strip mall near Seneca and 31st Street South, with smoke also damaging Marchello’s Restaurant just to the east.

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“I don’t know what the damages are,” Caillet said as he watched firefighters enter and exit Alberto’s. “I wish I could go inside.”

Customers of Planet Fitness just to the west of Alberto’s called 911 after noticing smoke at 10:22 p.m., Wichita Battalion Chief Jim Wilson said. Crews arriving on scene spotted smoke-stained windows at Alberto’s next door, made entry and discovered a fire burning in the ceiling space.

They made quick work of the fire, but not before smoke spread to Marchello’s next door.

A cause and damage estimate have not yet been set, Wilson said. The arson squad was on the scene, he said, as they are for any building fire of significance.

“They’ll do a thorough investigation and have a cause by morning,” he said.

Caillet said investigators were asking about his ice cream machine and what was next to it.

“Nothing was next to it,” he said of the two-year-old machine.

Caillet said he has owned the business for two years and business Thursday night had been “real good.”

“I don’t even know what to do,” he said as he watched the firefighters move into and out of his business, one of four he owns in Wichita. “I’ve never been around anything like that.”

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