Theresa Pagan shivered on a cold Sunday when she saw flames destroy the Mediterranean restaurant Malek Al Kabob in Roseville, where she had worked as a waitress and had been her second home for the past two decades.
“So many weddings, funerals, graduations,” she said. “So many memories of such wonderful customers and owners, all in smoke and falling to the ground.”
A roofer’s mistake may have triggered the two-alarm fire that consumed the 7,200-square-foot building on Gratiot Avenue near 13 Mile Road that has been Sajos, Olive’s Mediterranean restaurant, and other identities for the past 30 years.
About 20 customers – including a Roseville police officer on lunch break – and staff safely evacuated the restaurant when smoke penetrated the banquet and dining rooms around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
About 32 firefighters from Clinton Township, Eastpointe, Fraser and St. Clair Shores assisted the Roseville Fire Department while a team of Warren firefighters manned the Roseville fire stations while the work on site continued until about 6:30 p.m.
Michael Holland, Roseville fire chief, said a contractor working on a roof repair may have accidentally started the fire with a propane-powered flashlight. There were three propane tanks on the roof but they didn’t explode, he said.
Firefighters were on site and were shooting water within five minutes of being called to the scene, but the flames had engulfed the building completely and the firefighters were forced to take a defensive stance, Holland said. Thick, gray clouds of smoke rising from the fire could be seen for miles.
Three quarters of the roof collapsed, as did a wall, while fire fighting was in progress. The Roseville public work teams were bulldozed in to tear down the walls.
Firefighters worked for several hours, pouring water on the flames from air ladders, some of which were parked on Gratiot Avenue. Southbound Gratiot was closed to traffic on 13 Mile Road for most of the afternoon.
In addition to the massive fire, the firefighters had to deal with the elements. The temperature was 36 degrees in daylight, but with an 8 mph southwest wind it felt more like 30 mph, which raised concerns about hypothermia.
Holland said firefighters turned firefighters from the incident into a waiting Medstar ambulance to get out of the cold and warm up for a few minutes. The American Red Cross was there and provided coffee and snacks.
The landmark, which in the past housed Mediterranean restaurants such as Sajo’s and Olive’s, is owned by Sajo’s Investment Group under the direction of Jamal ‘Jim’ Sage. He rents the building to Moe Obaid and a group of investors who opened it as Malek Al Kabbob in August 2013.
Malek Al Kabbob means “King of Kabob” according to the company’s website.
Both Sage and Obaid said the restaurant will be rebuilt. The deal is insured, they said.
“My eyes can’t believe what’s happening,” Obaid said as he comforted other workers while the building was on fire. “I came to Roseville for the long term. When we get the chance we will open again, but it will be months before everything is together. ‘
Firefighters said the remaining structure would likely be nailed up and a fence put up around the property until all of the rest could be demolished.
Obaid also owns two other Malek Al Kabob restaurants, one in Royal Oak and one in Taylor. He said it was possible that some of the workers from the Roseville store could be hired.