Blaze strikes Orient House restaurant in Modesto

02/15/2013 7:55 AM

06/26/2013 2:32 PM

An early morning fire gutted the kitchen of a longtime Modesto restaurant Friday.

A neighbor reported smoke and fire inside the Orient House restaurant at 1:56 a.m., Modesto Regional Fire Battalion Chief Hugo Patino said. The restaurant is at 609 Tully Road.

"By the time we got there, there was not that much fire," Patino said. The building, which had been closed for the night, was "buttoned up", he said, meaning there wasn't much oxygen flow to feed the fire.

There was significant smoke, and firefighters opened the roof and doors to check for further fire and ventilate the building.

"It had gutted the kitchen," Patino said. An early estimate put damage at $100,000, but Patino said he expects that number to rise.

Firefighters remained on scene until 4:30 a.m. Modesto police provided traffic control in the area, and Modesto Irrigation District and Pacific Gas & Electric staff responded to handle gas and electrical issues.

Patino said the cause of the fire had not been determined.

Orient House, which has been in business since 1983, formerly operated a second location on McHenry Avenue before selling it.

Owner Allen Li, whose father started the Orient House, said the immediate future for him and the four other family members who work at the restaurant is uncertain.

"We definitely want to rebuild back," said Li, who had planned a big party to celebrate the restaurant's 30th anniversary. "I need to see what my options are."

Li said his insurance company said the process could take six to eight months.

"The whole kitchen area is all damaged, and the roof, too," he said.

Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

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