Update: City fire marshal Clyde Crews said the fire was an accidental grease fire, and the investigation has been closed.
Quick action by Ward’s Restaurant staff helped to get customers and employees to safety this morning without injury during a fire that’s now under investigation by the city fire marshal.
Firefighters at the scene said they responded to the call that the Clarksville Street business was on fire around 6:30 a.m., and they found flames coming out of the diner’s roof. Staff and guests had evacuated the building and watched from a nearby parking lot as firefighters put out the flames.
Two Ward’s employees, who both declined to be identified, said the deep fryer caught fire and the fire quickly became out of control.
“Once we saw flames, we got everyone out right away. We called the fire department, and they were here within seconds,” one employee said.
Gary Ward, brother of the diner’s owner, was in the diner eating when the fire broke out. He said the two fire extinguishers in the building did not work, despite being recently serviced.
“Everything that was supposed to work, wasn’t,” Ward said.
Firefighters said they were not certain what had caused the fire, but were responding to a grease fire call. Investigation is ongoing, and city Fire Marshal Clyde Crews came to the scene around 7:20 a.m. to investigate. The extent of the damage was unknown by press time.
Assistant Fire Chief Thomas McMonigle said there was another call Tuesday morning around 3:12 a.m. for a grease fire at Ward’s. According to call records, firefighters responded to the call, but diner employees extinguished that fire before firefighters arrived.
Ward was disheartened to see the damage.
“With insurance, they’ll still be paying a lot of money. It’ll be closed for a long time,” Ward said.