Downtown Opelika still recovering after July structure fire

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 5:04 PM EDT
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OPELIKA, Ala. (WTVM) - It’s been nearly a month since an overnight fire in Downtown Opelika destroyed a local restaurant.

Firefighters from Opelika, Auburn and Lee County put out the fire after more than eight hours using one million gallons of water. No one was injured, but the building was a loss.

There is still a lot of work to be done. According to the Opelika Fire Chief, they are still trying to clean up the area. They hope to rebuild once that is done and the buildings on both sides are situated after inspections.

“Every fire chief and firefighters have those buildings in town where they drive around everyday on the way to work and go “I hope that never catches on fire” and Downtown Opelika is that area for us,” says Opelika Fire Chief Shane Boyd.

On July 21, firefighters responded to Maffia’s Italian Restaurant on South Railroad Avenue around 1 a.m., where a fire swept though the building overnight inside the local restaurant.

Opelika Fire Chief Shane Boyd confirms the fire started in the kitchen, but the intensity of the fire is making it difficult for investigators to determine the exact cause.

“Most of the time these fires are going to go from under investigation to undetermined that’s very typical in this type of major fire,” said Boyd.

Charred debris is still being removed as the area is prepped for next steps. Boyd says there are plans to rebuild which will take over a year. It’s still not clear if the new building will be home to Maffia’s or a new business.

“I’m sure once as soon as they’re clear to start building back something will be build back immediately.”

The Maffia’s restaurant wasn’t the only building affected. Southern Crossing was also damaged. Gallery on Railroad owner Debbie Purvis, who did not want to appear on camera, said she has been trying to stay positive but right now her store has been shut down due to a lack of air conditioning, the business smelling of smoke, and inspections to surrounding structures.

Purvis said while the inspections are taking place her business will be moving a few doors down temporarily until its safe to move back in.

“Were looking forward to what comes next in that area,” said Boyd.

Maffia’s owner Nick Plava was quoted in a report published by Opelika-Auburn news. In that reporter, Plava confirms his ovens were on the night of the fire, but states that this is a standard procedure for a restaurant, adding there are thermostats that regulate the temperature.