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Fire damages Lum's restaurant, Esquimalt fixture for 50 years

Lum’s Polynesian Restaurant, a fixture in Esquimalt for 50 years, suffered extensive damage in a fire that blew out the front windows and snarled traffic along Esquimalt Road Thursday afternoon.
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Firefighters mop up after a fire at Lum's Restaurant on Esquimalt Road on Thursday afternoon. (April 4, 2013)

Lum’s Polynesian Restaurant, a fixture in Esquimalt for 50 years, suffered extensive damage in a fire that blew out the front windows and snarled traffic along Esquimalt Road Thursday afternoon.

“It’s a hard day,” said Joanne Mai, whose parents, Ben and Gina, bought the restaurant 14 years ago. “These things happen. You just have to deal with it as it is now.”

She said her family was shaken up, but grateful that they have insurance.

“I came here and my sister was here, too, and they were all crying,” she said, standing on the sidewalk as investigators sorted through the wreckage inside.

The restaurant had yet to open and nobody was inside about 4 p.m. when witnesses first spotted smoke coming from the building near the intersection of Head Street and Esquimalt Road.

Sharon McQuillan, who has worked next door at Nina’s Beauty Salon for the past 14 years, had just put a customer under a hair dryer when a man came in the door and told her, ‘There’s smoke coming out of Lum’s. Get out.’ ”

McQuillan sent her customer home, grabbed a coat, went outside and saw smoke billowing from the restaurant.

“Then the flames came out and the glass blew,” she said. “I don’t know what happened. … At least no one was hurt, that’s the main thing.”

The Esquimalt Fire Department responded and was assisted by firefighters from Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt. Esquimalt deputy chief Ray Saurette said it took about five minutes to bring the blaze under control.

“We applied water through the front window to do the initial knockdown, then we broke down the front door to gain access so we could get inside.”

Saurette said it was too soon to pinpoint the fire’s cause or estimate the extent of the damage to what has become a neighbourhood landmark.

Moira Prentice, 78, remembers going to Lum’s with her mother in the early 1960s, soon after it first opened, and says the restaurant’s customers have remained loyal for decades.

“It’s kept so many of the people that went there,” she said. “They’ve gone there for many, many years.”

lkines@timescolonist.com