The dumpster fire that temporarily put O’Fallon’s Peel pizzeria out of business was not related to another nearby dumpster blaze, according to Fire Chief Brent Saunders.
A fire a couple blocks away has been determined to have been caused by rags soaked in chemicals used to refinish furniture, Saunders said.
“We talked to the owner of that dumpsters and we’re satisfied that the fire there was not intentionally set,” Saunders said.
The cause of the fire at Peel has not been determined. Saunders said that he is hoping security footage at the pizzeria will help show how the fire start – and who started it.
An owner of the Peel Wood Fired Pizza location that burned Sunday said he plans to soon be back in business.
Patrick Thirion, who owns the business and its sister restaurant in Edwardsville with Brandon Case, said damage to the eatery at 104 S. Cherry St. is not as bad as it looks.
“About 99 percent of the damage is what you can see on the outside,” Thirion said. “Our kitchen is ready to go as soon as we can get it cleaned up.”
Thirion said water and smoke damage were minimal to the building that was built in 1903 as a bank.
“As soon as the fire department released the building to us we were able to get in there and get the water cleaned up,” Thirion said. “The smoke damage isn’t bad, because the fire was outside of the building.”
The fire started in a dumpster behind the building at about 1 p.m. Sunday. The flames spread to siding on the back of the restaurant and got inside the walls.
Thirion said he had a large lunch crowd when the fire started. Everyone was rushed across the street to safety.
“It was our fire suppression system that saved the whole building from going up,” Thirion said. “Fortunately, it allowed everyone to get out safely and prevented the whole building from going up.”
He also credited the O’Fallon Fire Department for showing up immediately to get the fire under control.
Saunders agreed that the fire suppression system was key.
“I would have been a lot less confident in our ability to save the building had the sprinkler system not been in place,” Saunders said.
The fire suppression system was only added a few years ago when the 100-year-old building was renovated.
“The damage wasn’t really that bad,” Saunders said. “But it was a frustrating fire to fight.”
Flames got beneath several layers of siding that the building acquired over the decades and then got into the walls threatening to spread throughout the structure and into the roof.
Thirion said he has no estimate of when the restaurant will be back in business and its 140 employees can get back to work. But he says he hopes it’s a matter of days as opposed to a matter of weeks.
It was our fire suppression system that saved the whole building from going up. Fortunately, it allowed everyone to get out safely and prevented the whole building from going up.
Patrick Thirion, co-owner of Peel Wood Fired Pizza
The Peel building has a storied history in O’Fallon.
Although it was originally intended to be a bank, owners of the building abandoned that venture shortly after the structure was built in 1903. According to O’Fallon Historical Society President Brian Kellerthe bank was sold and the buyer instead opened a saloon with pool tables on the first floor and a bowling alley in the basement.
The fun wasn’t limited to adults.
“Originally, the building was one story,” Keller said about the structure in 2008. “But in 1908 they added a second floor that had a roller rink.”
Thirion said there was no estimate of cost of the damage to the building yet.