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Grease fire at Shanghai Village causes estimated $150,000 damage

UPDATED, May 5: A grease fire at Shanghai Village has been cited as the probable cause of a smoky blaze in Arlington Center on Saturday, May 4, resulting in an estimated $150,000 in damage.

A sunny, 80-degree afternoon was blotted by swirling smoke across from Broadway Plaza at 2:50. The Arlington Fire Department, whose Central Station is across the street, responded to 434 Mass. Ave. for a report of a fire. They were aided by units from Cambridge and Somerville.

Ara Gechijian -- owner of the New England Photo, next to the 37-year-old Chinese restaurant, of the building itself -- told firefighters he was working in his shop when the room filled with smoke.

AFD Deputy Chief Kevin Kelley said he spoke with Deputy John Kelly who was the incident commander at the fire, who confirmed that the fire began in the restaurant's kitchen and that the kitchen clock stopped at 3 p.m., when it melted. The blaze spread through the building's ceiling and walls toward New England Photo, but firefighters put out the blaze before it reached the store.

Leland Stein, manager of the Regent Theatre, who took the video and photo accompanying this story, said he witnessed smoke spewing from an old chimney behind New England Photo.

"As far as the witness seeing smoke coming from the photo store chimney," Kelley wrote May 5, "the ventilation system was operating and was drawing the smoke out through the backside exhaust and smoke was also venting out the back door."

Students at nearby St. Agnes and Arlington Catholic, just out of school, gawked as firefighters ran a ladder on the Mass. Ave. side.

He called deputy Kelly's unofficial estimate of the damage is $150,000.

The fire was contained by 4 p.m., but firefighters said flames kept flaring as they searched the restaurant. To extinguish the flames, firefighters tore out ceilings. The building also suffered water damage in its basement and its duct work.

No injuries were reported.

Mass. Ave. traffic was closed in both directions from Franklin Street to Pleasant Street, roads reopened by 5 p.m.

Involved is a Greek Revival (circa 1850) house, onto the front of which was built the one-story storefronts. Both businesses are closed.

This news brief was published Friday, May 4, 2018, and updated May 5, to add detail.

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