The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 5, 2013

Investigators: Electrical problem in exhaust fan sparked restaurant fire

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— MILLMONT — The marquee in front of the Carriage Corner Restaurant captured the mood around Mifflinburg on Thursday: “Our hearts go out to The Barnyard.”

The sentiment — and the support — of the community means a lot to Robin and Troy Harvey, owners of The Barnyard Restaurant, about four miles west of Mifflinburg, which fire destroyed Wednesday night.

“We just appreciate the community coming forward and being supportive,” Robin Harvey said. “It’s just amazing.”

The Harveys were doing as well as they could, she said, after losing the restaurant they had owned and operated about five years.

They spent two years remodeling “pretty much on his own,” Robin Harvey said of her husband, Troy. “It was all him.”

The state fire marshal told the family the blaze that broke out about 9 p.m. started when the motor of an exhaust fan shorted. The restaurant was closed, but about four employees were there cleaning up, Harvey said.

“Someone smelled something, and it took a little while but they found out the exhaust fan above the dishwasher in the kitchen was on fire,” she said.

An employee tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher, but when the smoke started getting thick, the employees got out.

Flames spread to the front and east sides of the one-story building, and part of the rear of the structure had collapsed.

At least 50 firefighters battled the blaze in 32-degree temperatures and a steady wind. Firefighters were on the scene until about 2 a.m. Thursday, she said.

A steady stream of cars traveling Route 45 slowed by the charred building, parts of which were lightly smoldering. Some people stopped by to get a closer look.

“I heard about it on the scanner,” said Norm Strickler, who lives nearby and had frequented the restaurant over the years. He was taking photos of the smoldering debris.

“Those old timbers went up fast, I’m sure,” he said. “Part of that in front was the old building” that had been up since the late 1930s, he said.

Two other men, who declined to give their names, came by, and the three reminisced about the restaurant.

“They had some of the best pie,” one said. Another commented on specials with “all the haddock you could eat.”

Strickler felt sure the Harveys would rebuild.

“They’re not gonna give up, I bet.”

The Harveys have dealt with a devastating fire before. About 13 years, they lost the convenience store they owned across Route 45 from the restaurant. Three people died in that fire.

“We’ve determined in our lifetime that material things are not important,” Robin Harvey said. “We look at this one, and everyone is OK.” The Barnyard had about 25 employees.

It’s too early to decide what the Harveys will do with the property, she said, adding The Barnyard was insured.