Meriden police looking for person of interest in golf course fire

(See video of the suspect below the story)

MERIDEN — Police are looking for a “suspicious” person in connection with an early morning fire that damaged the restaurant at Hunter Golf Club.

Fire Marshal Steve Trella said the call came in at 3 a.m. from a passerby. When firefighters arrived at Violi’s restaurant, the rear of the building was on fire, Trella said. The fire started near a golf cart, spread to the outside of the building, and up into the attic, Trella said. The fire spread because the sprinkler system was only in the restaurant portion of the building, not in the attic, Trella said. There was not a lot of damage to the downstairs interior, but the outside of the building did sustain significant damage, Trella said. There were no injuries.

Security camera footage from the exterior of the building showed a man carrying what may be a gas can in his hand along with another unknown item, police spokesman Sgt. Darrin McKay said. The man is wearing a baseball-style hat and glasses and is seen holding an item up to his face, possibly a cell phone, McKay said. Police have released the video and are asking anyone who may be able to identify the man to call Detective Gonzalez at (203) 630- 6318.

There was no damage to a tent set up outside the building or a downstairs area, but gas and electrical service to the building were cut, Trella said. Crews were on scene before 9 a.m. to try to restore service to a portion of the building.

Tom DeVaux, facility manager for city-owned Hunter Golf Course, said workers would be trying to make repairs to the building as soon as possible so it would be ready to host various scheduled functions. DeVaux said ServPro was on site and the goal is to get the snack bar in the basement and the outdoor tent running as soon as possible to accommodate golfers. The Middlesex Chamber of Commerce also has an event scheduled for Wednesday, which DeVaux said is one of the biggest events of the year, so crews are working hard to make it possible. The restaurant owner has family in the food service industry and they are looking at catering the event, DeVaux said.

“If we get the snack bar operational and the tent powered up we can host all the events scheduled,” DeVaux said.

The upcoming events include a wedding and bridal shower.

The gas company has already ordered the parts needed to repair that system, and DeVaux said he is waiting to get the go ahead to turn on the water systems. DeVaux said there is heavy water damage in a basement mechanical room and a women’s bathroom.

DeVaux said the fire department’s response time was fantastic, and firefighters’ efforts saved a lot at the restaurant. Wallingford, Berlin and South Meriden firefighters also responded.



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