Five fire departments battle blaze at Falls City restaurant in 17 degree weather

FALLS CITY, Neb. – Firefighters from five different stations battled a major blaze at Potrillos Mexican Restaurant in historic downtown Falls City Wednesday morning.

Smoke could be seen from 15-20 miles away as fire crews used aerial  trucks from Falls City and Hiawatha, Kan.,  to suppress the fire from both the front and back ends of the building. Officials fought the fire in 17 degree weather (2 degree wind chill) for five hours, trying to contain the fire to one building.

Potrillos is part of a complex of buildings near 15th and Stone streets. The restaurant is comprised of two buildings, owned by Luis Salazar, and dates back to 1900.

Business owners at nearby Chaney Furniture and American Family Insurance both smelled smoke when opening their doors at 9 a.m. and immediately called 911. Damage to the H&R Block building to the south and Chaney Furniture to the north has not yet been assessed, but the fire appeared to be contained to the restaurant.

Vanji Bruzellas, the owner of three occupied apartments nearby, said everyone evacuated safely.

Several businesses downtown were closed by Richardson County Emergency Management Director Brian Kirkendall.

Power lines were seen hanging around the buildings involved in the fire and power was shutoff from 14th Street to 20th Street.

The Richardson County Courthouse remained open.

This is a developing story. Stay with News Channel Nebraska for the latest.

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