Fire strikes Ocean Beach restaurant; police seek man suspected of stealing equipment bag from fire engine

Firefighters battle a fire Jan. 22 at the Northside Tavern restaurant in Ocean Beach.

The fire was reported around 9:30 p.m. at Northside Tavern at the corner of Bacon and Lotus streets.


A fire tore through the roof of the Northside Tavern restaurant in Ocean Beach the night of Jan. 22.

Fire officials initially described the building — formerly the home of Mother’s Saloon, which apparently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — as an abandoned commercial structure. But a deputy chief later said the restaurant is open for takeout, though it was unclear if Northside Tavern was occupied when the flames erupted.

The fire was reported a few minutes before 9:30 p.m. inside the single-story building on the corner of Bacon and Lotus streets, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

“Crews observed heavy smoke coming from the building when they arrived,” the Fire-Rescue Department reported.

Deputy Chief Kelly Zombro told OnScene.TV that it appeared, based on preliminary evidence, that the flames started in the attic and were primarily contained to the attic and roof area.

Zombro said that while the cause and origin of the blaze remained under investigation, “we have nothing suspicious here; we just have to figure out what happened.”

Minutes after arriving, the initial crews requested a second wave of firefighters and equipment, according to officials.

“They went to a second alarm very quickly and proactively,” Zombro said. Officials said more than 70 firefighters, medics and other emergency personnel were assigned to the fire, including crews on eight engines and four trucks.

The fire was extinguished at about 10:30 p.m., according to the San Diego Police Department.

A message posted at 10:45 p.m. on the restaurant’s Facebook page read: “Our first concern was the safety of our staff and neighbors. No was was injured, the fire has been contained and we are on standby for our next step forward. Thank you to everyone who has reached out; we appreciate your continued support and will update you as soon as possible.”

San Diego police tweeted that while fire crews were battling the flames, a man stole a bag from one of the fire engines, making off with more than $1,000 worth of equipment as he rode away on a beach cruiser bicycle.

The Police Department posted pictures of the suspect on its social media accounts and asked anyone who recognizes him to call (619) 531-2000.

On Jan. 23, police thanked the public for sending in several tips and announced on Twitter that a suspect had been identified. Police did not release the suspect’s name and said the case remained under investigation.

— City News Service contributed to this report.


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