PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — The cause of a fast-moving fire that ripped through Lopes Square restaurants Saturday night was accidental and likely caused by an overloaded power strip, according to fire officials.
The fire that caused about $1 million in damages started in the second-floor office of the Red Shack restaurant at 315 Commercial St., according to a statement by state Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Provincetown Fire Chief Michael S. Trovato.
“An extension cord was plugged into a power strip, which in turn had several items plugged into it,” the men said in a joint statement on the Provincetown Police Department Facebook page. “Due to the extent of the damage, the fire will remain officially undetermined, but there is no evidence of any other cause than an overloaded extension cord.”
Flames shot as high as 20 feet in the air and restaurant patrons raced outdoors when the fire struck the Red Shack before moving to Tatiana’s Foot Long Hot Dogs and Surf Club Restaurant.
A Red Shack employee looked into the attic and saw flames after the restaurant’s computers stopped working around 6 p.m. on the first busy Saturday of the year.
Within minutes, flames were shooting through the roof and moving over to Tatiana’s, which like the Red Shack is a takeout stand, and into the Surf Club, a classic waterfront restaurant that’s been part of Provincetown’s landscape since the 1950s.
The Red Shack and Tatiana’s, which had not yet opened for the season, were destroyed, Trovato said previously.
The fire put at least three dozen people out of work, according to restaurant owners. It also caused minor injuries to a firefighter, according to the joint statement from Ostroskey and Trovato.
Ostroskey advised people to avoid overloading outlets and circuits by plugging too many things into them and to limit extension cords to temporary use.
“Many people leave them in place permanently and forget about them,” Ostroskey said in the statement.
Extension cords are particularly dangerous when used with appliances that generate heat such as space heaters, irons and toasters, he said.