Fire severely damages downtown Flames restaurant

A downtown Milford restaurant was severely damaged by fire Sunday evening.

Fire dispatchers received a 911 call at approximately 8:56 p.m. reporting a fire inside of Flames Mediterranean Grill located at 12 Daniel Street. Fire officials said the caller was an employee of a neighboring restaurant and discovered the fire after someone reported an odor of smoke in the area.

Firefighting units arrived on the scene and found the restaurant charged with thick black smoke, according to Battalion Chief Anthony Fabrizi.

“Fire crews forced entry through the front doors of the structure and advanced hose lines into the building in order to suppress the blaze,” Fabrizi said. “The fire was brought under control in approximately 15 minutes.

"Although firefighters managed to gain control of the blaze very quickly, the business suffered extensive heat and smoke damage," Fabrizi added. "An adjacent real estate office and barber shop were not affected by the fire."

The Milford Fire Marshal’s division is conducting an investigation, and a cause has not officially been released. The restaurant was reported to be closed for the evening at the time of the blaze.

A hint of smoke could still be smelled just outside the eatery Monday afternoon. While the front widows were largely blackened, the charred and burned interior — tables, chairs and holiday lights — could be seen inside.

Flames Mediterranean and American Grill opened in May 2017 on Daniel Street, taking the spot of a former bookstore.

Owner Walied Hanaif converted the building into the popular downtown eatery, featuring large sliding glass doors that open during warmer weather to create an outdoor feel.

The restaurant’s menu includes falafels, shawarma and other items.

Hanaif had been a New York businessman — a number of years ago he owned a deli in Brooklyn — and he saw Flames as a Manhattan-style café.

In 2017, Hanaif said he’d been looking for an ideal location when he came across the vacant Daniel Street shop.

“You have to look for the location,” he said. “And I love Milford.”

“When I saw this place, I said, ‘This is it,’” Hanaif added.