Fire damage was so extensive to Chef in the Forest restaurant at Hauser Lake that the fire chief said Monday a cause will be difficult to determine.
The fire broke out just after 11:30 p.m. Sunday after the owner left the business for the night.
The wood-frame restaurant with pitched roof on a lot overlooking the lake at 12008 N. Woodland Beach Drive was known for its gourmet food.
Tom Valcore, a friend of Debbie Mustered, one of the owners, said he and Mustered were planning to make kitchen improvements early next year, but now the restaurant is destroyed.
He said Mustered had closed the business a short time before witnesses reported the fire.
“It’s sad,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what happened.”
Hauser Lake Fire Chief Larry Simms said firefighters arrived less than 10 minutes after receiving the dispatch call.
The fire had been burning for some time, and firefighters were unable to enter the structure to fight the flames.
Instead, they opened a hole in one wall.
The fire caused portions of the roof to collapse. Walls remained upright, he said.
The cause was under investigation, but there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire, Simms said.
“With the extensive damage, it’s going to be pretty difficult” to pinpoint a cause, he said.
About 20 firefighters in six fire rigs fought the blaze, and some of them were on the scene for six hours.
Hauser Lake Fire Department, Kootenai County Fire and Rescue and firefighters from Northern Lights and Newman Lake departments responded to the blaze, officials said.
Mustered was insured, Simms said.
No injuries were reported.
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