LILLIAN, Ala. (WKRG) — A Baldwin County landmark goes up in flames in Lillian early Friday morning. For owner Tim Lett it was more than just a building, it was his life for the last 20 years.
Around 3 o’clock Friday morning, an alarm at Pirates Cantina Mexican Grill on U.S. Highway 98 in Lillian. Surveillance cameras capture firefighters arriving to heavy smoke pouring from the building.
“I get up here and there’s a little fire in the back of the roof between the exhaust fans.” Twenty minutes later, “Once that oxygen got to it went up like a roman candle.” Another 30 minutes pass and the building starts to crumble.
Harold McGehee is a former Lillian Fire Chief. “There was flames coming 20 to 30 feet out of that roof right there. It got so hot that it melted the glass.”
Originally known as The Pondera Plantation, owner Tim Lett had hand built it from timbers pulled from Perdido Bay. It was a monument to the last 20 years his life. “I’m still kind of shocked. I’m going to have to have a day or two before I realize it. It’s like, it can’t be, you know?”
It wasn’t just a restaurant. Inside, a treasure trove of collectibles and antiques that News 5 profiled when the restaurant first opened in 2016. “I had a boarding pass from the Titanic. There were over two thousand items.”
All of it now reduced to ashes.
Twelve hours after the first flames were noticed, the place Lett had hoped to leave his children still burns and thoughts of rebuilding couldn’t be farther away. “Anybody needs a nice empty property for sale? I got 4-5 acres here. Come see me.”
The fire is believed to have started in or near the kitchen. The state fire marshal will try and determine what caused it.