• 52°

Fire damages downtown eatery Rusty’s

Debris from a fire and collapsed roof litter the floor of Rusty’s Riverfront Grill this morning after an early-morning blaze damaged the eatery on Crawford Street. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[12/20/04]Arson is suspected in an early-morning fire that damaged a popular downtown restaurant, the chief of the Vicksburg Fire Department said today.

Investigators were still on the scene this morning, five hours after the blaze was reported at 3:20 a.m. They said it looked like the fire was started on the outside of Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, 615 Crawford St., and the flames burned up the wall near a back door and into the attic.

“I don’t want to call it arson, but what else could it be?” said Fire Chief Keith Rogers.

Most of the buildings in the area are old, but the building housing Rusty’s was built as a cafe about five years ago. It is sandwiched between larger buildings on Washington Street and the North Downtown Parking Garage.

Rogers said the fire was started on a small porch that leads to a back door on the west side of the building. It spread from there across the attic and destroyed most of the ceiling and roof.

Rogers said that most of the rest of the structure was not damaged by the fire, but by the collapsing ceiling. There was also water and smoke damage throughout the structure.

Rusty Larsen acquired the cafe and opened Rusty’s in November 2001. The restaurant is usually closed on Monday and no one was reported in the building when the fire began.

Separately, fire officials were investigating for the possibility of arson at historic McRaven, which was damaged by fire Saturday night. Rogers said the fire at McRaven, one of the city’s oldest tour homes, started in a storage area under the porch on the west side of the house.

He said officials had not determined what sparked the fire, but that there were flammable items kept in that area.

That fire burned the porch attached to the section of the house built in 1836. The original part of the house, which was constructed in three periods, dates to 1797.