Insurance adjusters, fire investigators and demolition workers converged Tuesday morning on the charred remains of an Olathe building that housed two restaurants and other businesses before a blaze gutted it Monday night.
As workers using heavy equipment tore down the brick building’s west wall, Salvador De La Torre surveyed what little remained of Fronteras Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, one of two restaurants he owned in Johnson County.
One of his employees called him about 8:30 p.m. Monday to report that kitchen workers had noticed a haze in the restaurant at Black Bob Corners, 135th Street and Black Bob Road.
“I told them to get out and call 911,” recounted De La Torre, who then headed to the site.
Firefighters searching for the source of the haze soon spotted flames in the building’s common attic space above a hair salon that was preparing to open, said Olathe Fire Capt. Mike Hall. As the blaze spread, crews from multiple fire agencies in Johnson County arrived to help battle it.
When De La Torre pulled up, the sight sickened him.
“When I saw the flames, I felt bad,” he said. “It made me cry. It’s my life.”
The fire destroyed his restaurant, a KFC restaurant, a Sprint store, and the hair salon and day spa.
The KFC entry door and name remained visible Tuesday, though flames had eaten away the building’s roof and attic.
Travis McGruder, an area coach for KFC, said he didn’t know whether the company would rebuild.
“Our food is so good that our customers will find us” at two other nearby locations, he said.
Fire investigators and representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also were on the scene Tuesday.
No cause had been determined, Hall said.
A heavy smell of smoke permeated the site, which was cordoned off by yellow tape. Burned debris washed from the building by water from fire hoses littered a steep embankment along 135th Street.
De La Torre said it was too early to know whether he would rebuild. He opened the Olathe location about six years ago and has been pleased with its customer support.
At least no one was injured, he said.
“I’m glad everyone was safe.”