Fire rips through landmark S.J. diner
The Crystal Lake Diner, a fixture for decades in Haddon Township, Camden County, was destroyed in a fire that began Sunday night and burned into early this morning.
Chief County Fire Marshal Paul Sandrock said the fire began about 11 p.m. Sunday in the basement, which is used for storage. Employees were inside at the time but no injuries were reported.
"The employees were just wrapping up for the night. The owner was also there when the fire was discovered," Sandrock said. The owner called 911.
Responding crews, however, were hampered in fighting the fire.
"The fire department was able to access the basement," Sandrock said. "But the first floor collapsed into the basement and they had to retreat."
The fire was brought under control around 1 a.m. But after two hours of burning, the interior of the restaurant appeared gutted, or at least severely damaged. The inside was blackened and filled with smoke, with only the stainless steel equipment still glistening. Windows were smashed.
The building on the 500 block of West Cuthbert Boulevard is in the township's Westmont section. It is next to Freddy's Liquors, and situated near the top of a hill across from Newton Lake Park. It has been a diner for at least 21 years. The Vasilakis family is listed on property records as the owner of the site, which one housed a Chinese restaurant.
A sign out front long-familiar to passing motorists reads: Crystal Lake Diner / Open 24 Hours / Baking on Premises.
The cause of the fire had not yet been determined as of early this morning.