Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mother's Day diners flee fire at Brandon's Buca di Beppo restaurant

BRANDON — Mother's Day ended with a beeline for the exits for scores of diners after a fire broke out in a crowded restaurant Sunday evening.

"It was a great Mother's Day — until the fire," said Jodie Rubio, 65, standing outside Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant with her family, other diners and about a dozen wait staffers. "This is one Mother's Day I won't soon forget."

More than 200 people were inside the restaurant at 11105 Causeway Blvd. in Brandon, but all got out and no one was injured, a spokesman for Hills­borough County Fire Rescue said.

About 7:30 p.m., the manager smelled smoke and noticed a haze in the dining room. Then the fire alarm sounded.

The restaurant is in a free-standing building, not connected to other businesses in a retail center.

"I smelled smoke, and at first I didn't pay any attention to it because there was a birthday party nearby and they had candles on the cake," said Raquel Burt, who was with nine family members, including Rubio, when the alarm sounded.

"It was a little scary," she said.

Firefighters were able to douse the blaze in about 20 minutes while customers and staffers milled around outside, hoping to return to retrieve personal items. The cause had not yet been determined.

Fire Rescue spokesman Ronnie Rivera said the fire seemed contained to a wall on the building's west side. At first, firefighters couldn't tell where it originated and no flames were visible.

"When they put their hands on the wall, that's when they could feel the heat," he said.

Firefighters from six companies in Brandon and Valrico responded to the blaze. They punched holes in the wall and roof to extinguish the flames.

The national chain restaurant has nine locations in Florida, according to its website. The Brandon location was scheduled to be open Sunday until 9 p.m.

One of the restaurant's busiest days, the family-style Italian restaurant was packed when Rubio and her family arrived around 5:30 p.m.

They made it through a dinner of chicken alfredo, spaghetti and meatballs and other dishes but hadn't paid the bill when the alarm sounded and manager Jeff Miles showed up at their table asking them to evacuate.

The patrons were outside when the first engine companies started arriving.

"It all was very orderly," Burt said, adding that the restaurant didn't charge for the meal.

"I felt bad for the wait staff," she said. "I had to chase down our waitress to give her a tip. I felt bad for her."

Mother's Day diners flee fire at Brandon's Buca di Beppo restaurant 05/12/13 [Last modified: Monday, May 13, 2013 7:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two Kissimmee police officers killed; Jacksonville officers shot


    KISSIMMEE — Two Kissimmee police officers were shot and killed Friday night, and one person was taken into custody, authorities said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of
  2. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  4. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.
  5. Despite pain, woman in court faces ex-boyfriend who lit her on fire



    Sheron Pasco sat in the wheelchair as her mother pushed it toward the man in the orange jail suit.

    Sheron Pasco, 39, relies on the help of her mother, Tranda Webb, 62, as she recovers from the burns covering her body.