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Philmore on Broadway damaged by kitchen fire

An iconic Fort Wayne theater just southwest of downtown sustained heavy smoke damage Saturday night when a fire broke out in its kitchen, firefighters said.

A sign from Neighborhood Code Enforcement was on the door of the Philmore on Broadway late Saturday, saying the building was condemned. The owners could not be reached for comment.

When firefighters arrived just before 7 p.m., they found thick smoke coming from a kitchen vent on the roof, according to the Fort Wayne Fire Department.

A ventilation grate on the rear wall of the building was also blackened with soot.

"The smoke was very black coming out of the vent and then it started out of the roof," nearby resident Melissa Howe said.

She and her daughter were working in their yard when they smelled smoke. Once they saw the source, Howe called 911 and tried repeatedly to reach the owner of the Philmore.

She said it smelled like burning rubber or an electrical fire.

Firefighters on the roof of the building, on Broadway between Creighton and Heustis avenues, looked for hot spots as smoke continued to come from the doors on the north side of the building and roof ventilation shafts.

The fire department said the fire was under control in about 20.minutes. In addition to smoke damage, the building had moderate fire and water damage, firefighters said.

The fire was found in the kitchen, but the cause is still under investigation. No one was injured, the department said.

The business was closed when the fire started, and firefighters had to break the glass of the doors on the north side of the building to gain access.

Opened in 1923 as the Broadway Theater, it was one of the five theaters at the time in Fort Wayne, according to the Philmore's website.

Nearby resident Tonya Winget, who's lived in the area since she was 13.years old, lamented the damage the business suffered, especially in light of renovations that finished just a few years ago.

After more than 60.years of service to the community, the theater shuttered its doors in 1985 and stood vacant until 1997 when several investors spurred a restoration of the building, according to the building's history summary on the website.

Those efforts led to it reopening in 1998 as the Catablu Gourmet American Grille, which operated there for 11.years.

Winget said the inside of the building looked incredible and hoped it wouldn't be too damaged.

Smoke swirled out the front doors and the windows of the second floor where balcony seating is located.

cmeyers@jg.net

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