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Richardson's Fire Not Arson, Owner Browne Plans to Rebuild Restaurant Within the Year

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The fire that burned down the popular Phoenix restaurant Richardson's Cuisine of New Mexico in July was definitely not arson, according to a Phoenix Fire Department report released last Friday.

Though the investigators are still not certain what caused the blaze that destroyed the iconic Phoenix restaurant, they have determined that it wasn't deliberate. Phoenix Fire Department investigators spent two full months examining the case, and refused to speculate on what caused the fire.

Owner Richardson Browne tells Chow Bella it was most likely caused by problems with the air conditioners.

Browne has plans to reopen Richardson's either at the same location, or next to Rokerij, one of his other restaurants, within the year. (The Rokerij was also the victim of fire in 2007; the Phoenix Fire Department determined that one to be arson. The suspects were never caught.)

"I will say that 99% of the people have been wonderful," Browne says. "I'd see complete strangers in my neighborhood at 5 a.m. while walking my dogs that would come up to me and say, `We are so sorry and will be your first customers when you reopen.'"

Browne has a sense of humor. On his Web site, www.burningembersphoenix.com, a video of a crackling fire burns with text over it: Everyone knows that Richardson's was the hottest. We'll be rising from the ashes. In the meantime, all menu items are available at the Rokerij.

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