An early morning fire that destroyed Petra is being investigated. The restaurant is near 21st and Woodlawn. (Nichole Manna/The Wichita Eagle/Nov. 1, 2017) nmanna@wichitaeagle.com
An early morning fire that destroyed Petra is being investigated. The restaurant is near 21st and Woodlawn. (Nichole Manna/The Wichita Eagle/Nov. 1, 2017) nmanna@wichitaeagle.com

Crime & Courts

Investigators continue to comb through restaurant fire

By Nichole Manna

nmanna@wichitaeagle.com

November 03, 2017 10:58 AM

UPDATED November 03, 2017 11:05 AM

Investigators from multiple agencies are taking their time combing through the burned remains of Petra Mediterranean Restaurant, which was destroyed in a two-alarm fire on Wednesday.

Lt. Jose Ocadiz with the Wichita Fire Department said Friday that parts of the building are still dangerous to enter.

“The challenge in all commercial fires is the type of construction and the heavy fire involvement,” he said. “Some areas aren’t safe to go underneath.”

Also involved in the investigation is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been notified about the fire in case in turns into a hate crime investigation. That’s because the words “Go Back” were found spray painted on a storage unit behind the restaurant.

Owners Ranya Taha, from Syria, and Bashar Mahanweh, from Jordan, said the words weren’t on the building when they left the night before.

Ocadiz said investigators must determine what caused the fire before starting a possible hate crime investigation, which would involve the FBI.

A prayer vigil is planned for Friday around 5 p.m. outside the former Petra Mediterranean Restaurant, 6140 E. 21st St.

Hateful graffiti sprayed on back of restaurant that burned

Ranya Taha, the owner of Petra, talks about a fire that destroyed her family’s restaurant the night before. Some graffiti with the words “Go Back” were written on the back of the restaurant. Taha is from Syria and has lived in Wichita for 16 years. Investigators have not yet said what started the fire. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle)

theying@wichitaeagle.com

Nichole Manna: 316-269-6752, @NicholeManna