Alton Illinois Popeye's fire


ALTON - Grease from a deep fryer overheated and ignited at the Popeye's Chicken restaurant just before noon Thursday, sending lunchtime customers running for the doors after employees were unable to extinguish the flames.

No injuries were reported in the fire, but the restaurant remains closed indefinitely for repairs.

The Alton Fire Department was called at 11:52 a.m. to the restaurant at 2390 Homer Adams Parkway.

Deputy Fire Chief Greg Bock said employees tried to put the flames out themselves but were unsuccessful.

"When (the deep fryer) caught on fire, the manager and employees tried to extinguish it with flour," Bock said. "They did that for quite some time, and the fire continued to get bigger, so (the employees) pulled the fryer from the wall where the fire was."

Wally Berger Buick
Bock said the workers also tried to activate the Ansul extinguishing system, an in-house extinguishing system that can be activated automatically or manually, from a remote location inside the eatery.

"They pulled it manually and dumped the extinguishing agent onto all the fryers, and it didn't help," the deputy fire chief said. "So, that's when they evacuated and called 911."

Bock advised against trying to move kitchen equipment that is on fire.

Smoke was coming from the doors and windows of the restaurant when firefighters arrived at the scene, Bock said. He said firefighters were able to put the fire out quickly, thanks to a piece of equipment on the firetruck.

"We have a special kitchen-type extinguisher that we carry on the truck just for those occasions," he said. "The food that was out was damaged and had to be thrown out."

Bock also said Popeye's must have the extinguishing system serviced before it is allowed to reopen. A representative from the fire safety company that supplies the extinguishing system said the restaurant will be closed until the system is restored, which could take a week or more.

The Madison County Health Department was called to inspect the restaurant, which is standard procedure when a commercial eating establishment is damaged by fire. Although there was no structural damage, the cost of repairs is still undetermined, as several cleaning measures have to be addressed first. Bock said the Popeye's kitchen acquired residue from the fire extinguisher, soot and cooking grease. He said workers scrubbed and washed what they could, and a steam cleaning company is set to show up early today to get rid of the remaining grease.

Employees were told by corporate administrators not to comment about the incident until someone from the company arrived. A short time after the fire, a woman who identified herself as "corporate" also refused to comment.

Workers stood across the street from the building, talking about what happened inside the restaurant after the fire started. One worker said customers seated inside the restaurant ran from their seats when they saw the smoke, leaving their food and trays on the tables as they escaped the building.