Cho Sun Restaurant sustained extensive damage in a fire early Wednesday morning. Decorah firefighters, assisted by members of the Ossian and Calmar fire departments, were on the scene from 1:36 a.m. until 5:30 a.m. (Photo courtesy the Decorah Fire Department)
Cho Sun Restaurant sustained extensive damage in a fire early Wednesday morning. Decorah firefighters, assisted by members of the Ossian and Calmar fire departments, were on the scene from 1:36 a.m. until 5:30 a.m. (Photo courtesy the Decorah Fire Department)

An early Wednesday morning fire caused extensive damage to Cho Sun Restaurant in Decorah.

Owner Nikka Lee said she will definitely reopen, but she doesn't know when.

"There is so much damage. I don't know how long it's going to take," she told Decorah Newspapers. "I am really sorry to my customers."

The state fire marshal will investigate the fire scene Thursday, according to Decorah Fire Chief Mike Ashbacher.

Lee said she is hoping footage from a security camera will help determine the cause of the fire. She said she was working at the restaurant until 9:30 Tuesday night and was certain she had shut off all restaurant equipment. No one was at the restaurant when a passerby noticed the fire and informed the Decorah Law Enforcement Center.

"I would like to find out," she said. "I have no idea how it started."

The Decorah Fire Department was called out at about 1:36 a.m. When firefighters arrived, there was an intense blaze coming from the west side of the building.

An interior attack was used, and the heaviest fire was knocked down fairly quickly, Ashbacher said. Firefighters then used "overhaul operations" - sheet rock, insulation and ceiling removal -- to stop the spread of the fire to other parts of the building.

No damage estimate is available, but there was significant damage to the west side of the building and smoke, heat and water damage to the rest of it.

The Decorah Fire Department was assisted by the Calmar and Ossian Fire Departments, the Winneshiek Medical Center Ambulance Service, the Decorah Police Department, Winneshiek County Sheriff's Department, Alliant Energy and Black Hills Energy.

Due to the sub-zero temperatures, Ashbacher said there were some problems fighting the fire.

"We did have multiple breathing apparatus freeze on us, but we didn't have any hoses freeze up," he said.

"We were fortunate to have Calmar and Ossian helping us. With the cold, we were able to rotate crews in and out and keep people fresh. It helped quite a bit," he said.

Decorah had 24 firefighters at the scene, and in total about 40 firefighters responded.

Ashbacher is reminding the public to keep their fire hydrants free of snow. He said there was minimal snow around the hydrant near Cho Sun.

"Keep hydrants clear. It takes time to shovel them out and get hoses hooked up," he said.