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Officials: Cause of Island Cow restaurant fire is undetermined

By TIFFANY REPECKI - | Aug 11, 2022

A sign of support from The Island Cow customers following the fire on Aug. 6. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Island Cow on Sanibel is closed after a recent fire caused extensive damage to it.

The Sanibel Fire and Rescue District reported that on Aug. 6 at 10:42 p.m., crews received a call from dispatch about a possible fire at the restaurant on Periwinkle Way. Upon their arrival, firefighters discovered heavy smoke billowing out from the building. Crews quickly took action and immediately made entry into the restaurant in an attempt to quickly extinguish the flames.

Upon entering the building, the crews deemed that it was too dangerous to continue with their current plan of action, the district continued. Firefighters existed the restaurant and began fighting the fire from the exterior. After several hours, crews were able to extinguish the flames.

“Island Cow has been a staple restaurant for residents and visitors alike,” Fire Chief William “Bill” Briscoe said. “It is a sad day to see such a landmark destroyed by fire.”

The district noted that no injuries were reported.

On Aug. 7, Sanibel fire crews arrived first thing in the morning to assess the damage to the building and continue with any firefighting operations. The district reported that while on scene, smoke was observed coming from the structure. No additional new flames were discovered during the day.

Today, the district reported that officials with the Florida State Fire Marshal Office have determined the cause of the fire to be undetermined. The state plays a role in any fire investigation.

“Safety is the highest priority for our firefighters and the investigators. The Island Cow was so badly damaged, it is unsafe to allow anyone inside,” Sanibel Fire Marshal and Division Chief of Fire Prevention Larry Williams said. “We are just grateful no one was injured during the fire, and we will keep it that way moving forward.”

The public has been asked to avoid the restaurant and use caution if in the area.

“Our firefighters did all we could to save the building, but we are grateful no one was inside the building and all resources on scene safely extinguished the flames,” Briscoe said. “I would also like to personally thank all local resources that arrived on scene to help with this fire.”

In addition to the Sanibel fire district, the Sanibel Police Department, Bayshore Fire Protection and Rescue Service District, Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue District, Captiva Island Fire Control District, Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District, Iona McGregor Fire District and South Trail Fire Protection and Rescue Service District responded to the scene.

The Island Cow owners Brian and Elke Podlasek provided a statement.

“Island Cow is currently closed following a fire that started in our kitchen after we had closed for the evening. Thankfully, no one was injured, and we are committed to renovating and reopening as quickly as possible,” they said. “On behalf of our Island Cow family, we want to thank everyone for their ongoing support while we close temporarily for repairs.”

The couple later added, via The Island Cow’s Facebook page, “Thank you for your concerns. None of our iguanas were harmed. They will be enjoying a Sanibel staycation until we rebuild.”

The Island Cow is at 2163 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.