Tung Loon Garden at 3627 N. Division St. was festooned with red neon – so much that the sky above it would glow a warm red on cold, foggy nights.
That neon is now the focus of an investigation into the late-night fire Tuesday that badly damaged the roof of the restaurant.
Spokane firefighters stopped the fire before it destroyed the restaurant, which could be rebuilt, officials said.
The fire was largely contained to the roof and facade, but water and some smoke penetrated into the restaurant, officials said.
A Spokane fire investigator checked circuitry on the roof, including the neon wiring, in an effort to pinpoint the cause.
A significant amount of electrical equipment was mounted in a false Mandarin-style decorative roof added to the Tung Loon building a number of years ago.
The fire started in the vicinity of that wiring, said fire investigator Lt. Jimmy Bowen.
A lot of other fires around the country have been attributed to neon lighting in the past, he said.
Bowen said he planned to conduct tests on electrical equipment at the same time working to rule out other possible causes.
“The fire generally didn’t get into the restaurant,” Bowen said. “There is a ton of water damage and some smoke damage inside the restaurant.”
Firefighters responded about 10 p.m. Tuesday and had to back away from the structure as pieces of the facade roof fell to the ground.
No one was injured. The building is insured.
County records show the building was constructed in 1960. Its owner is listed as the Chan Family Trust. Chin Ho Cho, of that trust, said he took over the restaurant in the early 1980s and is in business with his brother-in-law, Tat Yuen Chan.
Tung Loon had been operated under lease by another business owner, Jong Pil Kim, for the past 10 years.
Cho said he and family members are also involved in other Chinese restaurants in the Spokane area: China South, 2915 E. 29th Ave.; Kay Lon Garden, 2819 N. Division St.; and Dragon Inn, 12909 E. Sprague Ave.
He said it was too soon to know if the business will reopen.
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