Fortville restaurant damaged in New Year’s Eve fire

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Firefighters work to get a handle on a structure fire in downtown Fortville late Saturday night. Dec. 31, 2022.

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FORTVILLE — A local family restaurant sustained fire, smoke and water damage due to a late night fire Saturday. Shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, officials from several fire departments in Hancock and Hamilton Counties were called to S. Main Street with reports of a confirmed structure fire.

When officials arrived on the scene around 11:34 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, they could see smoke coming from the general area where businesses are located on Main Street, but were not sure exactly which business was on fire.

Bonsai, a Japanese sushi restaurant, 18 S. Main Street, as well as the M and J Firearms business, 24 S. Main St., were both in question due to the fact they are located beside each other.

Vernon Township Fire Chief Mark Elder said they were able to quickly determine the fire did start inside the restaurant, and crews were able to get the fire knocked down within a few minutes.

“Because of the number of occupancy’s there in that area we determined where the fire started, but we don’t know the cause just yet,” Elder said.

Firefighters had to force their way into the front door after finding the fire toward the back of the structure.

“The back door glass was broken out, and more than likely, the heat of the fire could have shattered that glass,” Elder said.

Vernon Township crews happened to have been out, returning from another call and were able to get to the downtown area within minutes of the fire dispatch call and put the fire out.

“The amount of time it took them to force open the front door, stretch a fire hose and get into the building was only a few minutes,” Elder said. “We had water on the fire pretty quickly.”

In addition to no one being hurt, the building is not a total loss, Elder said. But the structure did sustain fire, smoke and water damage.

The nearby firearms shop more than likely sustained smoke and perhaps some water damage, Elder noted.

“The age of the building that caught fire and the one next door, they all have openings that run into each other, so there are several business that have some smoke damage,” Elder said.

The fire is currently under investigation and Elder noted it could take a while due to the fact several businesses may be affected.

Rachel Breunig took to social media and posted a message from her father who owns and operates the business and said, “My dad is Tim Breunig, the owner of Bonsai Fortville. My dad has been through a lot with this restaurant and there has been many tears of joy and pain with this process. We are asking for your prayers for Bonsai and not hate. There has been rumors going around that are very hurtful and false. There is no pattern and this is not a true crime episode, this is simply a family trying to run a restaurant.”

Tim Breunig also thanked the firefighters on the business’s social media site and asked everyone to pray for the other businesses in the area also impacted by the fire, and noted they are thankful no one was injured.

Elder noted there are reports of vandalism associated with the business in the past, but so far officials do not believe that to be the case in this instance. However, the investigation is just underway.