Investigators are on scene at a popular Florenceville-Bristol restaurant and bar Saturday morning, Sept. 10, after a suspicious overnight blaze ripped through the structure.
The Florenceville-Bristol Fire Department, with mutual aid from the Bath and Centreville fire departments, responded to the fire call at A. C. Sharkey's Bar and Grill at approximately 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
The restaurant and bar is located at 2 Curtis Road in the Bristol area of the town.
Florenceville-Bristol Fire Chief Andrew Cougle, speaking from the fire scene around 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning, described the blaze as "very suspicious."
He said how the fire was reported, including the information gathered from the fire dispatch in Fredericton and the RCMP PSAP (public safety answering point), added to the suspicion.
Cougle said investigators from the Fire Marshal's Office and A. C. Sharkey's owner Lea Blakney were also on the scene Saturday morning. The RCMP attended the scene overnight.
The fire chief said insurance adjusters would make the final determination, but it believes the building is a complete loss.
"If it's not a complete write-off, it is close," Cougle said.
He said the fire destroyed the pub's outer deck and burned through windows to the interior. He said it also sustained extensive smoke and water damage.
Cougle said the restaurant was closed and the building empty when the fire began. He said one firefighter went to the hospital by ambulance to treat an injured leg.
The fire chief described the situation as "devastating" for the business owners, especially after two years of COVID.
"They're just getting back in the swing of things, then this happens," said Cougle.
The Florenceville-Bristol fire is the latest in a series of suspicious blazes in the Carleton Country area.
Woodstock police are investigating a Friday night, Sept. 3, fire which destroyed a four-unit apartment building in Woodstock, forcing residents to jump from second-storey windows. The following night the Hartland Fire Department chased four sequential fires which destroyed abandoned buildings in nearby East Brighton.
Cougle called the number of suspicious blazes a significant concern.
"They always seem to happen at 1:15 in the morning," he said.
Cougle, who lives and works near the pub, said the loss would hit the Florenceville-Bristol and surrounding community hard.
He said A. C. Sharkey's was the only eatery in the Bristol side of town and one of the only bars in the community.
Speaking on behalf of the ownership group, Lea Blakney said they plan to rebuild the pub as soon as possible.
"We are looking to reopen," he said.
Blakney said he could not immediately provide a timeline for reopening, noting many questions still need to be answered.
He said the fire remains under investigation, and the owners still must work out details with the business's insurance providers.
He praised the pub's customer base, adding the owners and dedicated staff look forward to serving them again soon.
Blakney said staff locked up and left the building around 11:30 p.m. Friday. He said sometime around 1 a.m. Saturday, the alarm monitoring company called, advising him of glass breaking and other issues at the pub.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun