La Cabanita, the popular Mexican restaurant at 9438 Ogden Ave. in Brookfield, will be closed until at least early August after a fire damaged the business on July 17.
About 20 people inside the restaurant were forced to evacuate the building when the fire broke out about 3 p.m., said owner Rafael Villasenor. The fire, which was contained in the rear of the building, could have been much worse, said Fire Chief Patrick Lenzi, who was at a training session in McCook when the call came in.
LaGrange firefighters, who were first on the scene, reported that the two gas meters at the rear of the building were on fire. Villasenor said there was apparently a small hole in the gas line and “it just ignited.” Helping spread the flames were some cardboard boxes at the rear of the building.
Firefighters poured water on the rear of the building to contain the damage while waiting for Nicor to arrive on the scene, which took more than an hour, Lenzi said. Ogden Avenue was closed in both directions between Eberly and Deyo avenues for about two hours.
“The rear area got a good charring,” said Lenzi. “Luckily it’s a brick building and it didn’t spread to the interior.”
A wood structure that held up a second-floor addition on the building was damaged by the flames. Villasenor said that entire addition, which was used for storage, will have to be demolished and replaced.
Lenzi confirmed that the gas meters were the source of the fire but couldn’t confirm the exact cause.
Complicating the reopening of the restaurant, according to Keith Sbiral, Brookfield’s assistant village manager, are a variety of building code violations found on the second floor of the building as firefighters inspected it to make sure the fire hadn’t spread.
“We put stop-work orders on a plethora of work going on upstairs of the building,” said Sbiral, who is also the Brookfield building director. A portion of a load-bearing wall had been removed as part of a rehab project, said Sbiral.
“Some sagging was already beginning,” Sbiral said. “It’s not remotely close to code-compliant.”
Villasenor will have to prove that the building is structurally sound before the village will allow it to reopen, said Sbiral.