SCOTTSBORO, Ala. - A Scottsboro staple is shutting its doors. The Liberty Restaurant which opened 60 years ago is closing indefinitely after a fire Wednesday morning.
Owner Barry Nichols showed WHNT News 19 the charred walls, dishes, and appliances left in a soot-water sludge mixture.
“It definitely saddens us that we’ll definitely be down for a time,” said Nichols.
Nichols has owned the place for five years, but his father owned it for 20 before that.
The home-cooking eatery has been around for 60 years.
“This is an important part of the community. We’ve been here for 60 years and people come and they come back. We’ve grown and grown and we’re part of their everyday life,” said Nichols. “We’ve had people that come in here from everywhere, cavers and spelunkers from all over the nation and all over the world that come in here and eat with us.”
Several people stopped by Wednesday to share their condolences with Nichols and others who were cleaning up.
Nichols said the outpouring of support is amazing.
“There’s been many thousand people already respond to show their support and everything. It’s very touching for everybody to stop by and say, 'we hope you’re back,'” Nichols said through tears.
The fire started in the back part of the restaurant in the office and then quickly spread to the kitchen.
Firefighters said it started by a wall-mounted electric heater.
They said employees called them when they went to open for the day, but saw heavy smoke in the kitchen area.
The dining area did not have any damage but had a strong smoke smell.
Scottsboro Fire Department Deputy Chief Jon Lee told WHNT News 19 those types of heaters can be dangerous during cold snaps.
“A lot of people are using the space heaters and it’s really encouraged to keep anything combustible away from those. A minimum of three feet but even more would be better,” said Lee.
Some other heating safety tips include plugging heaters directly into a wall outlet, not an extension cord.
Firefighters said having a working fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector could also keep people protected.
They also encourage residents to have a professional check their heating systems by a professional annually.
Two GoFundMe accounts have been started to help the owner pay for the repairs and other expenses.