Melbourne’s high-profile Stokehouse restaurant has burnt down after a blaze broke out in the kitchen.
The fire started on Friday night and quickly spread to the second floor of the recently refurbished wooden building on the St Kilda foreshore.
Around 200 patrons were dining in the restaurant, but all customers and staff escaped without injury.
More than 70 firefighters battled for three hours to control the blaze and crews were expected to remain at the scene for the rest of the day.
Metropolitan Fire Brigade spokesman Dave McCurdy says the fire was so intense that crews were forced to pull out.
“The roof collapsed reasonably early,” he said.
“Once the roof has collapsed it’s difficult for firefighters to do an internal attack and our aerial attack has been hindered by the roof iron that’s still in place.
“So we’re having difficulty actually getting to the seat of the fire. There’s still smoke in the area. Fire brigade will have a presence here for most of the day.”
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Strong winds and a lack of water hampered efforts to save the restaurant.
Frank Van Bakel from the fire brigade says strong winds and a lack of water hampered efforts to save the restaurant.
“The wind was blowing quite well off the bay there for a while which obviously assisted the flames and blew the smoke over St Kilda,” he said.
“Unfortunately in the area down here in Jacka Boulevard, there’s not a large water main, so we’re having a lot of difficulties with getting enough water to suppress the fire.”
He says management got people out of the restaurant quickly when they noticed smoke.
“From all accounts, the people in the restaurant have done an incredible job to get the people out safely and quickly so they should be commended for that,” he said.
The remains of the building will have to be demolished and early estimates put the damage bill at close to $2 million.
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Former Port Phillip mayor Dick Gross says the fire has caused a great loss for the St Kilda community.
He hopes a replica of the building can be built, as happened when the St Kilda pier kiosk burnt down.
“It is owned by the people of Victoria and leased so it’s actually a part of Crown land and the building is a Crown asset,” he said.
“It is tragic. It will alter an important part of the heritage fabric of the St Kilda foreshore.”