UPDATE: A press release from the Houston Fire Department appears below.
The Broken Spoke Cafe caught fire this afternoon around 3 p.m. and was still blazing around 3:45 p.m., when at least eight Houston Fire Department ladder trucks were hard at work putting the flames out. It is not known at this time what caused the fire.
From the scene, it appeared as if the fire had started in the abandoned duplex next door to the Broken Spoke. The duplex, 1807 Washington Avenue, isn't listed in county records and was mostly demolished by flames. The cafe at 1809 Washington Avenue was most recently a joint venture between Catherine Duwez and Roy de la Garza, but had recently closed.
Duwez left to start her own restaurant, Cafe Brussels, and de la Garza was named principal of Milby High School in June 2011. The Broken Spoke joins a list of notable Houston restaurants that were recently felled by fire, including Dolce Vita, Mai's and Late Nite Pie.
At the moment, Washington Avenue is entirely closed from Colorado to White -- a stretch which runs for several blocks on either side of the two-building blaze. The Broken Spoke itself is intact, but appeared to have sustained heavy fire damage on one side and smoke damage throughout.
While there didn't initially appear to be any injuries, we are still awaiting an official comment from HFD. De la Garza has not yet returned a request for comment either. We will update this post as more information becomes available.
The Houston Fire Department released the following statement this afternoon:
The Houston Fire Department is currently on the scene of several structure fires in the 1800 block of Washington Avenue near Sabine just west of Downtown. HFD was dispatched to fire just after 3 p.m. and arrived on scene within 2 minutes with heavy fire coming from a house. There were "downed" power lines at the scene as well.
At this point, one house has been destroyed and a nearby restaurant has also sustained major damage. A third house near the fire has suffered from heat exposure. There are no reported injuries.
Approximately 75 firefighters are on scene with 29 units including: 3 district chiefs, 7 engines, 4 ladders, 2 rescue units, rehab, an ambulance, a medic unit, a squad, 2 safety officers, 2 shift commanders, and the public information officer.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
More photos and video on the following page.