Fire damages restaurant in downtown Caldwell

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CALDWELL, Kan. -- Caldwell residents say a restaurant damaged by fire Thursday afternoon is a vital part of their town.

Last Chance Bar and Grill is closed, at least for now, after a fire broke out in the historic downtown building about 3 p.m. Those who frequented the popular restaurant -- which includes most of the town's 1,000 residents -- hope to see the Last Chance return.

"I hope they reopen," said Annette Leap. "I'm sure they will."

Leap is far from alone. She said Caldwell needs a restaurant like the Last Chance Bar and Grill. It's a place the community gathered daily.

"There's people here every night," Leap said. "The same people. Little old ladies that come in and sit at the same table every night."

Nobody was in the restaurant when the fire started. Opening time was still a couple of hours away when smoke and flames began filling the Sumner County sky.

"I heard some people yelling and I came out of my building over here and saw the smoke that covered the bank," said Jerry Volavka. "I thought the bank was on fire, but it was the Last Chance."

Firefighters from Caldwell, South Haven and Wellington had the fire under control after about an hour.

Jill Crumbliss, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Richard, said nobody was in the building when the fire started. Richard was running an errand to the bank, she said. Neither the owners nor the fire department know yet what caused the fire or how extensive the damage is.

"The damage is on the lower and upper floor, about the back fourth (of the building), said Caldwell Fire Chief Pat York. "That's all I can say at this time until we can get some more investigation done on it."

One Caldwell firefighter had to be treated for heat exhaustion at the local hospital. Nobody else was hurt.

Caldwell residents are hoping the fire will not run Last Chance -- which draws a steady stream of visitors from south-central Kansas and north-central Oklahoma -- out of business.

"Just from what I can see, I think they'll be able to repair it and continue," Volavka said.

Leap says most of the town feels the same way.

"Everybody loves it and I hope it comes back and I hope it's good," she said.

Crumbliss said it may be a few days before she and her husband know how badly their business was damaged and what their insurance will cover.


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