May 25 • 11:40 PM

Bugsy's goes up in blaze

Longtime Imlay City building a total loss after early morning fire on Saturday

Forty-five firefighters from five area departments turned out to help Imlay City firefighters battle a blaze at Bugsy’s North on Old M-21 early Saturday morning. photo by Randy Jorgensen.

July 09, 2008
IMLAY CITY — A city landmark burned to the ground early Saturday, resulting in an estimated $700,000 in damage and leaving seven people without jobs.

At around 4:45 a.m., firefighters from five departments (Imlay City, Almont, Attica, Goodland and Mussey townships) arrived at Bugsy's North Bar & Grill on Old M-21, to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the building.

Imlay City Fire Chief Kip Reaves said firefighters opened the building's rear door and discovered that the kitchen was in flames and the entire floor had been burned away.

"We tried attacking the fire offensively until it got to be too much," said Reaves. "So we went to defensive mode."

Reaves said three hydrants at the scene were supplying three fire trucks. As a result, the water flow was less than desirable.

"We were making progress," said Reaves, "but the fire hydrants were trying to feed much larger fire pumps. The fire continued to grow into the roof and we began using water tankers, drafting water out of the Belle River in two places."

With the building's walls becoming unstable and potentially dangerous to firefighters, Reaves said a local excavator was called in to tear down some of the affected walls and remove burning debris.

"The fire had a good head start," said Reaves. "The building's construction and subsequent remodeling (including several layers of roofing ceilings) and the exterior walls becoming weak, all worked against us."

In response to concerns of water flow problems in the north end of the city, Reaves maintained "there was not a water flow failure."

He said old 4-inch cast iron water mains at the location were unable to service the 6-inch fire pumps being used.

"Asst. Chief Rick Horton (incident commander) and I agree the total loss was unavoidable," said Reaves. "I feel bad for the owner and those that work at Bugsy's. We have lost a taxpaying business and people have lost their jobs."

Previously known as The Villa Restaurant and the Belle River Cafe, the building had stood at 145 E. Capac Rd. (M-21) for decades.

Bugsy's North was the second drinking and eating establishment to be destroyed by fire in the past two years. The Front Row Tavern on Third Street burned Jan. 9, 2007, and has yet to reopen.

Reaves added that Saturday's fire was detected by police Officer Rob Evoy, who smelled smoke in the area. A total of 45 firefighters and EMS staff responded to the incident.

Michigan State Police fire investigators are expected to view the site today and make an analysis regarding the origin of the fire.

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