Last updated Saturday, 9:10 p.m.:
A fire destroyed the Valley Forge Beef & Ale restaurant on Trooper Road in Audubon on Saturday.
The 18 customers and five employees in the restaurant at the time the fire started early Saturday afternoon reported hearing an explosion in the basement that "made the first floor rock," according to a statement sent to the media by Lower Providence Township on Saturday night. According to the township, an employee found "black smoke and fire" in the basement. 9-1-1 dispatchers advised the evacuation of the building, and firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 12:27 p.m.
Thick grey smoke issued forth Saturday afternoon from all three floors of the 19th century building, which was a popular local watering hole as well as a frequent workday lunch spot for the thousands of employees who work in industrial parks in the immediate area. A second alarm was struck shortly after 2 p.m., and it took more than 100 firefighters four hours to bring the blaze under control. The remains of the building continued to smolder as darkness fell Saturday.
The fire was initially in the basement, where firefighters had difficulty ventilating the area, according to the township's statement. The fire later moved up from the basement through "voids in the walls" to the third floor and the roof of the building, the township said.
South Trooper Road was reopened just before 8 p.m. on Saturday evening. With temperatures falling and the road surface saturated with runoff water from firefighting efforts, officials had been waiting for a PennDOT salt truck to treat the road surface before reopening it to traffic.
Owner Brian Flaxman told WPVI-TV that he recently completed an extensive series of renovations and intends to rebuild. The restaurant reportedly employed about 25 people.
Fire crews from Lower Providence, West Norriton, Jeffersonville, Collegeville, Skippack, and Limerick were visible at the scene, as well as Plymouth Ambulance and Lower Providence Community Ambulance Services. As the firefighting efforts dragged on, North Penn Goodwill arrived to provide coffee and other refreshments to emergency responders. Lower Providence Township said that Berwyn Fire Company also assisted at the scene.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, the township said Saturday night. Lower Providence Township Fire Marshal Charles DeFrangesco said he would begin an investigation of the fire on Monday in conjunction with township police, Pennsylvania State Police, and the Montgomery County Detective Bureau.
Earlier story and updates below.
Update 8:00 p.m. S. Trooper Road has just been reopened. Investigators remain at the scene.
UPDATE 3:43 p.m.: Crews are still fighting the fire, now nearly three hours after the initial call. Roads, including Trooper from Egypt to Audubon, Rittenhouse and surrounding access points, are still closed at this hour.
More information about the blaze will be posted as it is made available.
UPDATE 2:37 p.m.: Limerick's fire department, along with Plymouth Ambulance have now joined the scene to fight the fire. North Penn Goodwill service is providing coffee and refreshments for the many fire crews on the scene.
Crews are now heading to the smoke extending from the second floor with the use of ladder trucks. A majority of the continuing smoke is emanating from the second and third floor windows.
UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: Crews are returning the scene at this hour, to continue to fight a blaze. Smoke is still billowing from the establishment at a rapid pace.
In addition to Lower Providence, crews from West Norriton, Jeffersonville, Collegeville and Skippack are also at the scene assisting in this massive blaze. Lower Providence Police are also on the scene.
UPDATE 2:20 p.m.:
A fire is burning at the Valley Forge Beef and Ale in Audubon. Located along Trooper Road, just above Route 422, the fire scene has many area roadways closed down still at this hour.
According to the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety, rescue crews were called out at 12:28 p.m. in response to the blaze. Lower Providence Volunteer Fire Company and Lower Providence Community Ambulance Services were the first at the scene.
Reports state that the fire began in the business' basement, but has since spread to other portions of the building. A second alarm was alerted at 2:18 p.m.
Volunteer traffic police from the area are currently being offered by Black Rock, Lower Providence and King of Prussia units. Roads as far as Egypt and Rittenhouse, to Egypt and Trooper and Trooper below Audubon Road are currently closed off to traffic.
The road closures have traffic very disrupted in the busy commercial area, which encompasses entrances to Shannondell Road, Wawa, Walmart, Home Depot, Giant and McDonalds. The centers are currently still open, with very limited access to their shopping centers' parking areas.
Initial post is below:
Firefighters are currently battling a blaze at the Valley Forge Beef & Ale in Audubon. Few details available yet, but witnesses report heavy black smoke pouring from the bar and traffic in the area is snarled.
Patch will update this story as more information becomes available.