Reporting Derek Valcourt
DUNDALK, Md. (WJZ)— Fire claimed a popular Dundalk crabhouse as customers were right in the middle of their diner. Some fast-acting employees are getting the credit for saving lives. Derek Valcourt has more on what happened and what’s next for the restaurant.
Ross’s Crabhouse has been here for decades and is a landmark in the area. It’s a shell of its former self, but owners are vowing to rebuild.
At Ross’s Crabhouse in the 1100 block of Northpoint Road, there’s little left to salvage. Only a customer-crocheted crab hanging on the wall could be saved.
“It was just terrible. It was devastating,” said manager Cindy Reidnauer.
Reidnauer was preparing food inside the restaurant around 7:30 p.m. Sunday when the fire broke out.
“I heard the alarms go off down in the basement and I smelled smoke,” she said. “I ran down the basement. Then all of a sudden, the middle part of the basement was engulfed in flames.”
Reidnauer immediately began screaming for the six employees and 15 customers who were in the building to evacuate. Some customers and staff teamed together to carry a woman in her mid-80s out of the restaurant in a hurry.
A Baltimore County fire truck was only one block away when the call for help came but by the time they arrived, the fire was raging out of control. After burning for several hours, the floors had collapsed; all three levels were ruined.
“It’s overwhelming,” said owner Kim Ernst.
The restaurant has been in Ernst’s family for 42 years. Now that it’s been declared unsafe, she’s worried about her employees, who are now out of a job.
“If all the funds come together enough, we want to rebuild,” Ernst said.
It’s also a setback to loyal customers, who raved about the food and the service.
“I’m going to really miss it,” said Karen Anderson.
“I was almost in tears. They’re good people. The employees are great people; we love ‘em. We were really sorry to hear and see this. She said she’s going to rebuild, so hopefully it will be bigger and better,” said Eva Anderson.
The building is pretty much a total loss. It will likely have to be bulldozed and rebuilt from the ground up.
Firefighters say due to the extensive damage from the fire, the investigation into the cause will likely take some time.