By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — More than 50 firefighters battled an inferno at a popular city bar and restaurant after fire broke out less than a half hour after the bartender and owner left early Thursday morning.
The Brass Key, at North Second Street and Edison Avenue, sustained severe damage after a light fixture in the basement shorted out, according to Sunbury Fire Chief Mike Rhoads.
The Brass Key has been in business for a number of years and is owned and operated by Anthony Sanutti, of Selinsgrove.
He said everything appeared fine when he left the building at about 3:40 a.m.
Sanutti was not sure what he planned to do, but said he was going to try and salvage some of the belongings inside.
Rhoads estimated damage at more than $200,000.
“They told me the jukebox was still playing as they were fighting the fire,” Sanutti said. “I have no idea what I am going to do next.”
He said he was in the process of remodeling the second floor, and he has insurance on the structure and its contents.
“I don’t even know what I lost yet,” he said. “I would imagine all the inventory we had is gone.”
Rhoads said the fire started in the basement and continued to the bar and kitchen area before spreading to the second floor.
The Sunbury Fire Department was dispatched at 4:04 a.m., and Rhoads said when he reached the scene, the flames were out of control and he needed more manpower.
“Our guys from Station 56 did a great job and stepped up with really no manpower,” the chief said. “I started calling in stations from everywhere.”
Members of several Valley departments began racing to Sunbury to help their fellow firefighters, Rhoads said.
By 7 a.m., Milton state police fire marshal Kirk Renn was inside the building searching for clues, and Rhoads announced that the cause was a short circuit.
“It was determined the fire started in the basement by a light fixture that had a wire with tremendous amount of stretching and melting,” Rhoads said. “It was an accidental fire.”
Even though the fire was handled quickly, Rhoads said he is asking for more volunteers.
“All departments are suffering from this,” he said. “We need more people.”
Assisting at the scene were Sunbury, Middleburg, Shamokin, Upper Augusta, Point Township, Northumberland, Selinsgrove and Danville fire departments.