PLAINS TWP. – Authorities are investigating whether someone started a small fire outside The Tee Box bar and restaurant on Hudson Street.
Firefighters responded at approximately 2:30 p.m. Saturday to a reported porch fire at the business at 115 Hudson Road.
Officer Brian Baranski of the Plains Township Police Department said a 911 caller reported flames leaping up to 6 feet high from a small back porch area along a side wall at the rear of the building. When he arrived on scene the porch was still burning, though the flames were less than a foot high, Baranski said.
The three-step porch sustained minor fire damage, while the adjacent door was warped and slightly charred and nearby siding was stained with soot. An overturned metal drum in a separate area at the rear of the bar was also covered in ashes, and the siding nearby was also marked with soot. The view of the back of the bar is partially obscured by surrounding woods.
Baranski said he smelled an odor, possibly gasoline or another accelerant, upon arrival.
"I'd say it's suspicious at this time," Baranski said.
The bar's owner, George Vukovich, said he believes the fire was set.
"Somebody lit something," Vukovich said.
"Even over there, on top of that barrel, my siding was singed," he added, gesturing to the ash covered overturned barrel.
Vukovich said he was not at the business at the time of the fire, though he was there earlier in the day. He was preparing for a charity pasta dinner and left about 40 minutes prior to the fire, he said, adding that he did not notice anything out of the ordinary when he left.
Firefighters extinguished the flames without incident in a matter of minutes, according to Fire Chief Carl Baker.