Rusty’s will be rebuilt, restaurant owner says

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rusty’s Riverfront Grill employees Anthony Ware, right, and Marcus Mack, left, clean a fire-charred grill with the help of volunteer Zachary Penny, 7, Tuesday afternoon as they salvage equipment to be placed into storage. (Brian LodenThe Vicksburg Post)

[12/22/04]Rusty Larsen said Tuesday he can’t imagine why anyone would torch his downtown restaurant, but also said he will rebuild or reopen in another location.

That, at least, is good news for fans of the popular restaurant that opened in November 2001.

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Larsen and several of his employees and volunteers have spent two days since the Monday morning blaze cleaning out charred debris and saving what equipment they could. At the same time, fire investigators were interviewing suspects in the fire at Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, 615 Crawford St., and possibly in the blaze that damaged McRaven tour home Saturday night.

Fire Chief Keith Rogers would not say how they had identified the suspects and would not say if they believe the two fires are connected. Both started in outside areas of the structures.

For Larsen and his employees, the immediate effect is loss of income.

“I’ve got 12 employees who count on this job every day and now some (body) has put us out of business,” Larsen said. “I have no clue why anyone would do this. It’s just stupid.”

Larsen moved to Vicksburg three years ago to open his restaurant. The fire reported at 3:20 a.m. spread from a porch area into the attic and across the entire roof.

Visible damage was mostly in the ceiling, but Larsen said the whole building appeared beyond repair. He said they would either rebuild or move.

Work was also beginning this morning at McRaven, 445 Harrison St., to replace the outside porch where the blaze began Saturday night. Damage was also reported in an upstairs room from the smoke and heat.

Second degree arson, the burning of any building other than a school or church, is a felony crime and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Deputy Fire Chief Rose Schaifer said the department is working with the police department in the investigation. Although the fire chief does have police powers under the city’s charter, Schaifer said any arrest would be made by the police after a warrant is issued.