Suspected Arson At Hoak's Restaurant

November 29, 2011 Updated Nov 29, 2011 at 8:12 PM EDT

By WKBW News

November 29, 2011 Updated Nov 29, 2011 at 8:12 PM EDT

HAMBURG, NY ( WKBW ) A suspected arson at a popular southtowns restaurant is under investigation.

The damage at Hoak's Restaurant in Hamburg is extensive.

Owner Ed Hoak woke up Tuesday morning to a very unpleasant holiday surprise, as the second floor of his Lakeshore restaurant was set on fire.

The owner believes it was done intentionally.

Ed told Eyewitness News, "I got a call about quarter to four this morning from our alarm system saying there was an alarm going off, came down, I hit all the lights, and was going real fast, was here within five minutes, first on the scene. Everything looked OK, didn't smell anything, but the Christmas lights were on upstairs in the banquet room. I said I better go up there and turn those off. I went up there, opened up the door, that is when I saw the smoke, flames engulfed the banquet room upstairs."

Hoak's Lakeshore Restaurant in Hamburg is best known for their fish fry and friendly service, but Tuesday served up a very different dish for owner Ed Hoak. He believes the second story blaze was started intentionally.

Ed continued, " I eventually saw a torch on the ground. I threw that out the fire escape door, which was open. Threw out the burning chairs and tables."

Hoak added, "But the smoke was the problem, and then when I saw the propane tank, I backed off and ran downstairs, and the fire company was here shortly after."

The fire is under investigation by Hamburg Police and Erie County Fire Investigators. They are calling the blaze suspicious. In a release obtained by Eyewitness News, officials report the fire started on and was confined to the upper floor, and burned some chairs and flooring. The cause of the fire remains unknown, and damage was minimal. No further details will be released at this time.

Meanwhile, Ed Hoak is thankful that he escaped with his life, let alone his business.

"One of the fire examiners from Erie County said this would have blown up, could have blown up the whole, I mean boom, just gone," Hoak concluded.