Zillah restaurant destroyed in overnight fire

Zillah restaurant destroyed in overnight fire »Play Video
A fire broke out at El Porton, a restaurant in Zillah, early Friday morning. No one was inside at the time. Firefighters say the building is a total loss. (Photo courtesy of viewer Blake Dasso.)
ZILLAH, Wash. -- A fire in the middle of the night left more than a dozen people out of work and destroyed a Zillah landmark. The El Porton restaurant went up in flames. It's not clear why, but it doesn't appear to be a crime.

The restaurant chain that started in Yakima lost one of its five locations. No one was in the building when the fire broke out, and no one was hurt. But, locals and people who worked there say they lost more than a place to eat.

All that's left of El Porton in Zillah is the building's shell. It was gutted on the inside.

The fire left manager Lorena Jimenez and her 16 co-workers out of a job.

"I don't know what I'm going to do now, so it's sad because you never expect in your life that it's going to happen to you," said Lorena.

Consuelo Garcia is a waitress here. Her family depends on her job.

"My life's here, all day five weeks a day,” said Consuelo.

Pictures sent to us on Facebook show the fire's intensity.

It started just after midnight. Zillah's fire chief says crews worked for more than three hours to put out the flames. He says the fire destroyed all the kitchen appliances and half the roof.

"It's a complete loss," said Chief Dan Hargroves.

Firefighters showed up again in the morning after the wind started another small fire in the attic.

Investigators don't suspect foul play, saying the fire likely started in the kitchen. There's no official cause yet.

Customers who drove by the restaurant were stunned to see the damage.

"For the last 17 years, I've been coming to this El Porton to eat," said Carolin Morford. "It's one of my favorite places, best place to eat in town, and we're really going to miss it."

"This was our place," said Kristina Gjersing.

Now they have to find someplace else.

The restaurant manager told KIMA the owner has insurance and, right now, the plan is to rebuild. It's not clear how long that will take.