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Central Square Fire Damages Restaurant

Greg Kuhnen -- The Tech
A fire broke out in Pho Republique Sunday morning, causing damage to three neighboring restauraunts.
By Dan McGuire

A weekend fire gutted one Central Square restaurant and severely damaged three others. The fire began early Sunday morning at Pho République. It was spotted by workers at The Middle East, who were preparing to open for the day.

Workers saw a "thick black wall of smoke you could cut with a knife" coming from Pho République, one employee said. They immediately called the Cambridge Fire Department.

"The fire department was here in five minutes," said Joseph Sater, an employee at The Middle East. "Otherwise the whole block would be gone up."

The employees of The Middle East "saved the day," said Tom Chung, the manager of Mary Chung's. "We're lucky that they were there early in the morning to call the fire department."

A spokesman for the Cambridge Fire Department said that the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Restaurateurs make repairs

City officials shut down all of the restaurants on the block where the fire occurred until they could be inspected. The natural gas piping also remained shut off.

Most employees and owners spent Monday surveying the damage and making repairs.

Construction crews at The Middle East, which is next to Pho République, spent Monday ripping apart the ceiling and looking for additional damage. Fans pumped air through the building in an effort to remove smoke and water.

A performance slated for Monday by the band High and Mighty was also postponed. Sater said that The Middle East would open "as soon as possibleŠ in a couple of days."

Fire damage at the other restaurants was less severe. Firefighters broke into Mary Chung's to make sure that the fire hadn't reached that restaurant. Workers there spent the day replacing ceiling tiles, patching up holes in the walls, and removing excess moisture. Tom Chung said that his goal was to reopen the restaurant by Friday.

Workers at the India Globe restaurant spent the day ventilating the restaurant to remove smoke and water. The restaurant's manager, Hardwp Badasha, said there was also some damage in the cellar. Badasha said that he hoped he would be able to reopen in a few days.

Pho République was boarded up after the fire. The owners of the store could not be contacted for comment.