Investigators probe cause of 'suspicious' fire at American Oak restaurant

Investigators probe cause of 'suspicious' fire at American Oak restaurant

Michele Ellson

The Alameda Fire Department is investigating what they're calling a suspicious fire at the American Oak restaurant on Santa Clara Avenue. No one was injured in the fire, which caused an estimated $450,000 worth of damage to the building that houses American Oak and its contents, Alameda Fire Captain Jim Colburn said.

Colburn said the department got multiple calls about heavy smoke pouring out of the restaurant beginning at 6:16 a.m. Saturday; he said firefighters extinguished the fire in 15 minutes. He said there were "multiple points of ignition" inside the building.

Fire investigators, along with police, were still on scene and were conducting interviews at 10 a.m. Saturday, and the 2300 block of Santa Clara was closed to drivers. A row of onlookers, including American Oak owner Chuck Carlisle, were across the street from the building, waiting for details.

This is the fifth fire the department has battled in 10 days, Colburn said. The fire didn't cause any damage to neighboring buildings, he said.

"Obviously, it's considered to be a crime scene too," Colburn said.

The restaurant opened in January after owners Carlisle and Melanie Hartman opted to switch things up from its former incarnation as BarCeluna. In a recent review, the San Francisco Chronicle praised the shift from cocktails-and-tapas to American gastropub with 100-plus whiskeys as "an upgrade."

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