Six employees were able to escape unharmed from a fire Thursday afternoon that ravaged a Palmetto restaurant and forced the closure of Eighth Avenue West in both directions for about four hours.
At 5:04 p.m., a caller to 911 reported a fire at Restaurante La Rancherita, 1210 Eighth Ave. W., according to the Manatee County Emergency Communications Center.
The blaze at the building, which once housed a KFC, was reported as under control shortly before 6 p.m. with six fire engines from North River Fire District on the scene at the time. Paramedics also were summoned, but no injuries were reported. One person initially was unaccounted for but later located.
Shortly after the fire broke out, a nearby sheriff’s office detective closed the road, also known as U.S. Business 41, to traffic in both directions from 10th Street West to 17th Street West while crews battled the blaze. The road was reopened to traffic shortly after 9:30 p.m., according to the Palmetto Police Department.
North River Fire District Fire Marshal Andrell Miller said the building “burned quite intensely,” and the fire district’s response to the call was larger than normal.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office was called to the scene and is investigating the cause, Miller said.
The restaurant’s owner, contacted at the fire scene, declined to comment.
Dozens of bystanders stood along the street to watch as flames and smoke rose from the building and water pouring from the fire truck. Several bystanders lived in the Palmetto Mobile Home Club and came out when they heard the sirens and saw smoke rising from the restaurant.