A DEVASTATING fire has forced a landmark Abbeyleix restaurant to close its doors for the first time in nearly 36 years.
The kitchen area of Quinn’s Tea Rooms on Main Street was gutted in the sudden blaze in the early hours of yesterday (Monday) morning.
It was a shocking experience for owner Marie Quinn, who rushed to rescue her elderly mother and special needs brother from their bedrooms as the fire raged downstairs.
The Quinn family say they will be “eternally grateful” to the emergency services, whose swift response possibly prevented the entire building from going up in flames.
Marie’s brother Robbie Quinn told the Laois Nationalist: “There is serious damage and it’s not looking good, but she will be eternally grateful to the fire service, as it could have been far worse if they had not arrived on the scene so quickly. The most important thing is that nobody was hurt.”
Marie started working in the kitchen at her usual time of 5.30am, as she began her daily routine of baking fresh bread and scones for the busy restaurant. She had turned her back for only a minute when flames erupted with terrifying speed.
The quick-thinking restaurant owner used a fire blanket to contain the blaze and immediately contacted emergency services before rushing upstairs to alert her mother Eileen and brother Mark. Despite the frightening circumstances, she remained as calm as possible as she helped them both downstairs and outside to safety.
Laois Fire and Rescue Service received the alarm call at 5.35am and fire crews from Abbeyleix and Durrow rushed to the scene within minutes, where they worked quickly to bring the spiralling blaze under control. Fortunately, the fire was contained and did not spread to adjacent buildings. Firefighters remained at the scene until about 9am, when the site was deemed safe from any further outbreak.
Robbie said that Marie’s preventative action was crucial and she was praised by the fire service for her correct response, which helped to contain the flames for vital minutes. He added that she has been overwhelmed by all the messages of support from other businesses, neighbours and friends and is extremely grateful.
He said: “Marie wants to thank everybody for their incredible support and kindness. She has given more than 35 years of her life to the business and this has been a big shock, so all the messages and offers of help are really appreciated. It will take some time, but she will do everything she can to open again as soon as possible.”
Robbie also thanked everyone who came out to support the family during their ordeal, including neighbouring businesses and residents. The night porter from the direct provision centre nearby came down with tea and coffee to keep everybody warm and the thoughtful gesture was greatly appreciated.
He added: “The fire service was fantastic and they got there as fast as they could, so they deserve great kudos. We are so grateful to them and to everybody who has helped us so much.”