FAIRFIELD — The block upon which Pepperbelly’s Comedy Club stands remained cordoned off Saturday afternoon as firefighters assessed the damage of the five-alarm fire that gutted the club Friday night.
Battalion Chief Bob Stoffel said the Fire Department is working with a structural engineer, the city’s chief building inspector and a contractor to remove debris from the exterior of the structure.
The fire broke through the roof and heavily damaged the interior and some exterior. Firefighters were waiting to determine the level of safety around the building in the hopes of reopening Texas Street sometime Saturday night, Stoffel said.
The fire was reported about 6:45 p.m. Friday and quickly heated up and spread, according Fairfield Fire Chief Vince Webster. All of the Pepperbelly’s employees were safely evacuated before police came to the scene and assessed the situation. Though the interior was heavily damaged, Stoffel said the exterior appears structurally sound.
More than 20 fire engines from Solano County arrived to battle the fire.
Firefighters were forced to work from the outside and above, trying to keep the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings. Public Works Department crews were called in to deal with flooding at the scene.
Stoffel said Saturday that the Fire Department will wait until Monday to investigate the source of the fire. Stoffel acknowledged rumors in the community about the cause of the fire, but did not put much stock in them. He said the fire was more likely caused by power lines overheating.
The fire came up at the Fairfield City Council’s workshop Saturday.
Webster gave an update to the council and staff about the events of the prior night. He reiterated that no one was injured and thanked the surrounding areas for responding with mutual aid. He also thanked police and public works for helping with water supply and crowd control as his crews fought the fire.
At the meeting, he also discussed why it took longer for the aerial ladder trucks to arrive. Just minutes before the call at Pepperbelly’s, firefighters from the main station were called to a vehicle fire on West Texas Street. They were dispatched to Pepperbelly’s and had to leave the car fire scene, return to the main station on Kentucky Street and get the ladder truck. Firefighters cross-staff units out of the main station based on the need of the call, he said.
Business owners, community members and friends of the owners were still stunned Saturday at the damage done to Pepperbelly’s.
Carol and Jeff Von Beltz, friends and former neighbors of the building’s owner Wayne Mayhew, were saddened to see the business he built be destroyed so quickly.
“Wayne built this from the ground up,” Carol Von Beltz said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Mayhew has owned the building since 2001 and the Von Beltz’s have known him just as long. They were there when he first started the project, there when he sold his house to fund the refurbishment and there when he completed restorations about two years later.
He’d created a place where many young comedians got their start and where many big names have performed, including Dana Carvey, Bill Bellamy, Tommy Davidson, DL Hughly and Christopher Titus.
The Mayhew family devoted themselves to Pepperbelly’s and to Fairfield, the Von Beltz’s said.
“They really believe in Fairfield,” Carol Von Beltz said.
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia. Danny Bernardini contributed to this report.