fire at a popular New Baltimore eatery was intentionally set and investigators are continuing to collect evidence to determine who's responsible, according to New Baltimore police.The
Police Chief Tim Wiley said a press conference with Crime Stoppers of Michigan is scheduled for Thursday morning at the restaurant on Green Street to bring attention to the ongoing investigation. In collaboration with Crime Stoppers, the owners of the family business are scheduled to be there as well.
New Baltimore police and fire, along with Michigan State Police fire investigators, have determined the blaze was not accidental and, despite speculation, did not start in the kitchen, Wiley said.
He declined to cite specifics about what led them to their determination or whether the building, which had some upgrades in recent years, had surveillance equipment when the fire broke around 6:40 a.m. Sunday. The establishment--known as a landmark in the community--was not open for business at the time.
Police said they are also aware of pending legal action between owners of the business, but did not say whether that had an effect on the fire investigation.
"We are cognitive that there is clearly some litigation that's out there that involves the estate of the current owners," Wiley said. "We are aware of that."
In that Macomb County Circuit Court case, one of the owners, Lora Diehl, is challenging the validity of her sister-in-law Suzanne Zsude's wedding ceremony to Diehl's late brother George Zsude, according to The Macomb Daily.
New Baltimore Deputy Fire Chief Brian Bilinski said flames and smoke from the building could be seen from Green Street. The city crew responded with help from Chesterfield Township, Ira Township, Lenox Township, New Haven and Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.
The estimated amount of damage has not been determined but it's not expected to be a total building loss. The fire mostly affected the back of the business that is used as the main entrance.
The building will be boarded up for an undetermined amount of time, fire officials said.
Wiley, who grew up in the community, said his personal ties to the restaurant date back to when he worked as a bus boy in middle school for the original owner Phyllis Zsude. Zsude's children took over the business when she died.
"She taught me so much about people and serving," he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-SPEAK-UP or New Baltimore police at 586-725-2181.