PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Investigators believe a fire that destroyed a well-known Luzerne County diner was accidental.
Firefighters were called Monday night just before 10 p.m. to the Flamingo Diner in Plymouth Township. Crews from surrounding communities were called to the scene.
They quickly knocked down the flames and kept the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. There are concerns about one fire department and its noticable absence at the scene. A landmark in shambles is the best way to describe the Flamingo Diner the day after fire ripped through the business along Route 11.
“We thank all the firefighters. Everybody who responded,” diner co-manager Shawn Matello said.
But one particular group of firefighters wasn’t on hand to douse the burning diner.
“It would have saved us a lot of damage if they were here. If they could have responded because they’re only right up the road,” Matello said.
Fire apparatus inside Plymouth Township Fire Department sits idle. It’s been that way for five months now since a dispute about the level of township funding coupled with criticism about response time ended with the department’s decertification.
“It’s not that they took a long time to get here but we’re literally 2,000 feet from the structure that burned,” Plymouth Township Fire Rescue, Tilbury station Chief Barry Lore III said.
The township outsources firefighting protection using four neighboring departments. The township set aside $30,000 in this year’s budget for something Chief Lore insists his department should handle.
“At the end of the day, this is about lives and property and we’re here to do that. We want to protect the lives and property and of course like last night a business in this community that we may now have lost forever,” Lore said.
Even though the department isn’t fighting fires, it’s raising funds through events like Horror Hall during Halloween season. Since the department is a separate entity, it still must pay the mortgage on the fire department building.
And the fundraising efforts continue. The chief says a couple of catered events are happening here this weekend and a spaghetti dinner is planned in a few months. But this is all happening under the shadow of a very uncertain future of firefighting in town.
Contacted by phone, Plymouth Township Supervisor Gale Conrad said while she’d never say never about bringing back the department, she believes residents should be confident with the outsourcing arrangement. But don’t tell that to Shawn Matello.
“This is a prime example. I mean if you can’t look at this and put two and two together you know. Somebody has got to step up. Our leaders got to take action here,” Matello said.
According to dispatch records, Nanticoke firefighters were first on the scene of the diner fire. It took them just five minutes to get there.