On Thursday Sept. 29 at 6:52 a.m., the New Paltz Fire Department received a dispatch for a roof fire at Mexican Kitchen on N. Front Street. Eyewitnesses say two firemen went into the building upon arrival while the rest began to put out the flames. There was no one in the building at the time of the fire and no one was harmed. The damage to the building caused it to be completely torn down.
Alexa Floresta, owner of Crust and Magic, a store located directly next to Mexican Kitchen reported that by 10:30 a.m. the building was fully bulldozed but was still being hosed down to ensure the fire would not relight.
At 11:30 a.m., Cory Wirthmann, Chief of the New Paltz Fire Department told The Oracle, “the damage and deterioration of the fire itself to the building is what caused us to have to actually take the building down which is common when you have fires… you’re worried about during the rebuild or somebody messing with it that it’s going to come down.”
At the time of the interview, Wirthmann said the Ulster County Fire Department was investigating the cause of the fire. However, a post from Mexican Kitchen on Facebook read that the cause of the fire was an “electrical fire” that “started in the attic.”
The Oracle reached out to Mexican Kitchen for comment but they have not responded.
Hans Schmalberger was among the first to post about the fire in the New Paltz Community group on Facebook. Schmalberger lives two buildings down from the fire and heard the sirens early this morning. “The fire department did an absolutely amazing job when they got there. It was a big fire with lots of smoke and these guys just ran right in to see if there were any people.”
Facebook users rushed to share their love for the restaurant and sadness over the fire. Many are encouraging the business to start a GoFundMe to help raise money for the reconstruction of the building.
“It’s part of New Paltz history,” Schmalberger said.
“I woke up to my boyfriend being like here’s a photo, and I was like, ‘What are you showing me, hurricane destruction photos?’ Then I was like, ‘Oh my God. It’s Mexican Kitchen.’” said Floresta. “The building was so cute. The whole street was, this is such a special little block to me. They were always great to us.”
Other New Paltz businesses, such as Huckleberry, were forced to close due to plumbing issues that were a result of the fire.
“What happens when you pull water from a hydrant system, this old little cavity, some of the dirt and rust that sits at the bottom of the pipe turns the water brown and it’s fine,” said Chief Wirthmann. “There’s no boil order or anything like that, it’s just a very, very old system.”
Chief Wirthmann said the water can be expected to return back to normal in a few hours.
A gofundme has been started: https://gofund.me/79fd09fe