2014-10-09 / Front Page

Fire damages Olympic Diner in Mahopac

Eric Gross

A popular Putnam restaurant was damaged by fire Saturday despite the efforts of some 100 emergency responders from fire companies throughout Putnam and Westchester. 

The blaze was reported at 2:15 p.m. at the Olympic Diner on Route 6 at Miller Road. Fires responders found smoke inside the restaurant and ordered an immediate evacuation of all patrons and staff.

Mahopac FD personnel under the command of Assistant Chief Billy Bahr initially believed the blaze was centered in an air conditioning unit but as the smoke intensified and the department’s tower ladder truck was deployed to the roof of the building, firefighters discovered that the blaze was centered in the kitchen area between walls.

Bahr sounded a general alarm and requested mutual aid from the Mahopac Falls, Carmel, Putnam Valley and Brewster Fire Departments along with the Mohegan Lake, Croton Falls, Somers and Yorktown Fire Departments from Westchester.

Firefighters were forced to cut holes in the roof of the restaurant in order to attack the blaze while other responders ripped out shelving in the kitchen in order to extinguish the smoky fire.

The restaurant’s owner, Nick Tsakowitis, was visibly shaken by the scene that unfolded before his eyes, but Carmel Police and Chief Bahr said the situation could have been much worse since a burning odor was reported inside the restaurant 13 hours before firefighters were summoned.

Authorities told the Courier that a restaurant employee smelled something burning at 1 a.m. but was advised by the owner to disregard the odor since food had been accidentally burned in the kitchen.

The fire smoldered throughout the night and on Saturday around 2 o’clock, smoke became visible inside the eatery. A customer called 911 to report the situation and when Officer Thomas Johanson arrived a few minutes later he reported two dozen people inside having lunch. He ordered that they evacuate immediately.

Chief Bahr said had the fire been reported earlier, less damage would have resulted. The chief also admonished the businessman: “Whenever you smell smoke, call 9-1-1. Never take the situation into your own hands. A real catastrophe could have resulted here with injuries or even worse.”

It took fire crews nearly two and one-half hours to extinguish the blaze. Firefighters remained on the scene for several hours after the blaze was extinguished.

Traffic was snarled throughout the southern Mahopac and Baldwin Place area for most of the afternoon and early evening Saturday since firefighters stretched hundreds of feet of hose along Miller Avenue, Route 6 and Route 118.

Assisting at the scene were members of the Putnam County Fire Investigation Team, Putnam County and Mahopac Fire Police Teams, Putnam Assistant Commissioner of Emergency Services Robert Lipton, Putnam Health Department Sanitarian Rick Carano, Carmel Building Inspector Michael Carnazza, crews from the New York State Electric and Gas Company and Central Hudson Gas and Electric Company as well as a representative of the Putnam Bureau of Emergency Services.

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