The cause of the three-alarm fire that destroyed the Chunxi Kitchen restaurant in uptown Oxford Wednesday afternoon remained under investigation Friday by the Butler County Fire Investigation Team.
The Oxford Fire Department report estimated damage to the building at 12 S Beech Street at $226,840 and damage to its contents at $100,000. Fire Chief John Detherage described the building as a total loss after the fire burned through the roof of the one-story structure.
About 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, an employee of the restaurant ran next door to United Dairy Farmers (UDF) and told Oxford Police Sgt. Jon Varley, who happened to be there, that the restaurant was on fire. Varley then alerted the fire department and evacuated the restaurant and the UDF, Oxford Police Lt. Lara Fening said.
“He (Varley) said the fire was rolling in the kitchen,” Fening said.
Firefighters arrived on the scene within two minutes of receiving the alarm, according to the report. There were three employees and a few patrons inside the restaurant when the fire broke out, Detherage said. No one was injured.
The UDF is only about a foot away from the restaurant. Firefighters also evacuated the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on the other side of the restaurant. Neither of the neighboring buildings was damaged, the chief said.
The three alarms brought units from departments in nearby Milford Township and Reily Township to help Oxford firefighters battle the blaze. Detherage said the extra units were needed for the additional manpower because the Oxford Fire Department routinely has only five firefighters on duty at that time of day.
Firefighters remained on the scene until 7:32 p.m., according to the fire report.
Chunxi Kitchen had been in operation for about two years. Prior to that, another restaurant called Stella occupied the same site.
According to records in the Butler County Auditor’s office, the building housing the restaurant is owned by Hamilton Construction & Services International, LLC. That company has an Oxford address according to the auditor’s records but as of Thursday evening, no representative of the company could be located.
Tracking down the building’s owners and completing the investigation was proving frustrating to Chief Detherage as well.
“We’re still trying to get the information together, and it’s leading us all over the place,” Detherage said.