Fire nets arson arrest

Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

The Columbia House Restaurant in Columbia State Historic Park was destroyed by fire Sunday night.

A man was arrested in Columbia on suspicion of arson shortly after the fire was reported.

Multiple reports of the fire were made at 6:24 p.m., said Paul Speer, assistant fire warden for the Tuolumne County Fire Department.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Casci said 75 percent of the structure was destroyed, but fire crews were able to save Angelo's Hall, which is connected to the building at the rear.

The restaurant is not typically open for dinner on Sundays.

The Columbia House on Main Street is operated by Steve and Doreen Kwasnicki, who also manage the Jack Douglass Saloon in the park.

The State Parks Service said the Kwasnickis became the new concessionaires of the Columbia House in November. It previously had been known as Bart's Black Skillet and the Jenny Lind Restaurant, as well as the Columbia House in earlier years. The family moved to the Mother Lode from the Bay Area.

A New Year's Eve party scheduled at the Columbia House tonight will now be held at the Jack Douglass Saloon.

Engines from Cal Fire in Calaveras County, Tuolumne County Fire's Jamestown station, the Columbia Fire Department and Sonora City Fire Department responded.

Also on scene were two water tenders, a battalion chief and division chief.

The fire was contained at 8:02 p.m. and completely extinguished at 10:08 p.m., according to Cal Fire Communication Operator Jim Devoll.

No injuries were reported.

The cause is under investigation.

Tuolumne County Fire Department spokesman Steve Gregory, the lead investigator on the case, could not be reached this morning.

However, Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office booking logs show that Daenon VincentBrewer, a 21-year-old transient, was booked on suspicion of arson, burglary and other charges after an arrest at 6:34 p.m. Sunday at State and Main streets in Columbia.

Brewer was being held in Tuolumne County Jail this morning without bail.

The Union Democrat
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