September 26, 2011 in City

Night blaze damages pair of iconic eateries

Flames at Milk Bottle spread to Ferguson’s
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Flames roll from the roof of Ferguson’s Cafe late Sunday as fire crews work to contain a blaze in the Garland District of Spokane. The flames spread to the cafe from Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle next door.
(Full-size photo)

Two historic Garland District restaurants – one a Depression-era icon and the other a popular diner featured in several Hollywood films – were heavily damaged Sunday night by fire.

Spokane firefighters initially tried battling the three-alarm blaze inside Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle, 802 W. Garland Ave., but they had to pull back as heavy flames spread around them and over to Ferguson’s Cafe next door, authorities said.

Crews began spraying protective foam in an effort to keep the flames contained.

“Our concern was stopping it from spreading down the whole block,” Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams said.

The orange glow of rolling flames was visible from several blocks away, drawing more than 100 people to the scene to watch the firefighters work, with many snapping pictures. Authorities were alerted to the fire at 8:42 p.m.

Ferguson’s Cafe owner Dave Jones stood near the fire command post Sunday night watching intently as passers-by offered their condolences. He appeared devastated.

The owners of Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle had left town Sunday. But their son, Dan Ritchie, hurried to the scene after being advised of the fire and was standing by as firefighters sought to keep the blaze from spreading. The restaurant, with its iconic milk bottle shape, is one of Spokane’s most recognizable commercial district landmarks.

Williams said the cause of the fire remained under investigation, adding that there was a report of an earlier explosion but no confirmation. Witnesses also said they saw a downed power line arcing between the buildings.

Ferguson’s Cafe, which closed in 2009 but was later reopened, was featured in three movies, “Vision Quest,” “Benny & Joon” and “Why Would I Lie?” Ferguson’s first opened in the 1930s.

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