The Age

Patrons enjoying one of Melbourne’s most famous cafe strips have been evacuated due to billowing smoke from a blazing kitchen.

Police cleared Degraves Street after smoke filled the graffiti-covered laneway on Wednesday afternoon.

Six trucks were called to the scene shortly after 2pm when the blaze erupted in the kitchen and spread through the flue and ducting at Cafe Adiamo.

Firefighters in breathing apparatus put out the fire, which was brought under control after 13 minutes.

Smoke and water damaged about half of the café, according to the MFB. It is estimated the fire caused $75,000 in damage.

Cafe Andiamo manager Anthony Wiryadi said his first thought as he left the burning cafe was for his staff and customers.

“I was scared I’d left people inside because you couldn’t see anything,” he said.

“Did I get everyone? I tried to scream their names.”

Mr Wiryadi was talking to a customer when his staff alerted him to the blaze in the kitchen.

He told a staff member to evacuate the cafe as he grabbed an extinguisher to fight the flames.

However, this only made the fire worse as the flames shot up the kitchen flue to the upstairs of the cafe.

“That’s when the smoke became thicker and darker and the sprinklers came on,” Mr Wiryadi said.

He had tears in his eyes as he stood behind the police cordon still in shock watching firefighters battle the blaze. “I feel confused,” he said.

Commander Kieran Lenehan said fat and food in the flue may have caused the fire to become out of control.

“There is extensive damage to the ceiling and kitchen. There is also a lot of lost product. I would say this business will be shut for a while, hopefully not too long,” he said.

Jasmine Tink, a waitress at nearby Quarter Cafe, said the sight of people jumping over the front counter at Cafe Andiamo to escape the fire was terrifying.

“I won’t lie, it was kind of fascinating but it was also scary. It was quite serious,” she said.

“The venue was completely filled with smoke.”

Ms Tink said she smelt smoke in the street about 10 minutes earlier but at first thought it was nothing out of the ordinary.

“It then got a lot stronger and we looked out and saw really, really dark smoke plumes coming out of their exhaust fan,” she said.

“Pretty much everyone came out to look and the customers left Andiamo.”

The street usually flooded with tourists there to see its graffiti and cafes is now filled with people taking photos of the damaged cafe.

Tables usually occupied by foodies sit empty in water left from the firefighting effort as police and onlookers surround them.

But other cafes have returned to normal, including Mock Turtle next door which gave another of Andiamo’s managers a solidarity warm drink.

Flinders Lane will remain closed for some time.