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Fire erupts in Kyoto’s Pontocho alley

Fire erupted in Kyoto's  famed Pontocho alley on Tuesday night
Fire erupted in Kyoto’s famed Pontocho alley on Tuesday night
KYOTO (TR) – A fire erupted in an eatery’s kitchen on Tuesday, sending towering plumes of smoke into the air as firefighters fought to bring it under control for four hours.

The Kyoto City Fire Department received an emergency call at around 7:10 p.m. from a worker of izakaya Akaneya Junshinken in the famed Pontocho alley, saying the two-story wooden establishment’s kitchen on the ground floor was on fire, the Mainichi Shimbun reports (July 5).

The Kyoto fire department said the blaze spread to a south-side building, engulfing a 280-square-meter area that took fire fighters four hours to extinguish. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that 21 emergency vehicles were deployed.

A 23-year-old worker of Akaneya injured his hand from glass and was brought to a hospital, along with a 38-year-old customer of a nearby restaurant that reported feeling sick after inhaling smoke.

Pontocho is one of Kyoto’s most famous streets lined with traditional eateries, restaurants and shops. Just 50 meters north of the fire sits a theater for geimaiko traditional dancers.

‘Intense flames’

Like most nights, the area was teeming with tourists wearing yukata as they soaked in the local sights. Despite the efforts of dozens of police officers, the scene quickly descended into chaos.

A 66-year-old man who works at a nearby bar said he went outside because of “all the commotion, and there were these explosions as intense flames spewed out from the second floor.”

“I just grabbed all my valuables and got out of there,” the bar worker said.

Another witness, a 28-year-old worker of a nearby izakaya, spoke of being told by police to evacuate.

“When I went outside, the air reeked of burning plastic,” the izakaya worker said. “Then I heard explosions as the fire got bigger. Right now, I’m worried about what happened to the place I work at.”

A 21-year-old witness who works at a nearby eatery told the Sankei Shimbun that he was “shocked to see so many fire trucks and people who evacuated, not to mention the closed-off roads.”

Amid the panic, a man who runs a soba restaurant further along the street said several customers were still eating in his establishment when the fire broke out.

“I waited for my customers to finish their meals, then I closed up shop as soon as I could,” the soba operator said. “I’m glad my customers and the building were fine, but I shudder at the thought of a fire spreading in a packed area like Pontocho.”