SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 27, 2013

Restaurant fire deemed accidental

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — The fire at Stone Soup Cafe early Friday morning appears to have been sparked by faulty wiring, fire officials said yesterday.

Fire Lt. Jeffrey French said the fire is not being considered suspicious.

“It appears to be electrical in nature,” he said, noting faulty wiring in the building’s decorative lighthouse and soffit overhang where the fire started.

The fire remains under investigation by Ipswich fire and police and the state fire marshal.

“They are trying to determine what was live and what wasn’t,” French said. “There was old wire up there that they were looking into near where the fire started.”

At 141 High St., down the road from Ipswich High School, Stone Soup has been run by Mark and Stefani Macklin at that location since 2009, after it moved from the corner of Central and Market streets.

Stone Soup was scheduled to close for business this past Sunday, and the owners of The Farm Bar & Grille in Essex planned to open an upscale Mexican restaurant under a different name by late October.

According to online records, the building is owned by Christopher Pescione, who owned Marco Polo, the restaurant formerly at the site. The building was built in 1958 and is assessed at $767,900.

Ryan Cox, one of the owners of The Farm, said they have been in touch with Pescione about construction at the site and how it might affect their plans.

“We will definitely go forward with our plans,” Cox said. “Obviously, it will slow our timeline down a little.”

Cox said the owners are still working on how to best move forward after the fire.

The fire broke out about 3:48 a.m. Friday and drew firefighters from Topsfield, Hamilton and Rowley, as well as Ipswich — about 30 firefighters in all. French said most of the damage was concentrated in that section of the building.

The lighthouse, where much of the fire was raging, collapsed during the blaze, just moments after Ipswich fire Lt. Sean Cronin pulled two of his colleagues away from the building. The building was otherwise unoccupied during the collapse; no injuries were reported.

Some of the flames spread to the ceiling but were stopped by firefighters, French said. Damage to the building is estimated at $50,000.

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.