Fire at Merced Bar B Q Pit investigated as ‘suspicious.’ Here’s what happened.

Police and fire officials are investigating a suspicious fire at a popular barbecue and breakfast restaurant in Merced.

Merced firefighters responded to reports of a fire at the Bar B Q Pit at 1720 G St. shortly before 10 p.m. Monday. Smoke billowed as a fire at the rear of the restaurant flowed into a dining area wall of the restaurant, Battalion Chief Cory Haas said.

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Merced City firefighters put out a suspicious fire set at Bar B Q Pit, a popular barbecue restaurant at 1720 G St. in Merced, California. The fire was reported Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Vikaas Shanker vshanker@mercedsunstar.com

“Right now, we’re looking at it as a suspicious fire,” possibly arson, Haas said, noting investigators ruled out any natural causes. “We don’t have any suspects.”

The estimated damage was roughly $35,000 to the $700,000 structure, Haas said.

“We could see it on our cameras, all the smoke inside,” said Bar B Q Pit owner Roy Mercado.

There was damage to the dining area wall, Mercado said. But workers cleaned the Merced County restaurant throughout the early morning to open up on time for Tuesday at 6:30 a.m.

“It’s scary stuff. But the fire department came in and put it out (before any serious damage occurred)“, Mercado said. “It was just amazing.”

It was the first fire the restaurant has faced since it opened in 1992, Mercado said.

“I think somebody set it,” Mercado said, noting he couldn’t speculate on who may have started the fire.

Anyone with information on the incident or possible suspects is being asked to call Haas at 209-388-8876.

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.