No injuries were reported and the cause of a major blaze Tuesday at a northeast London, Ont. Pizza Hut restaurant remains under investigation, with damage estimated at more than $1 million, city fire officials said.
Fire crews were called to the scene at the northeast corner of Highbury Avenue and Huron Street around 3:43 p.m. following multiple reports of a structure fire.
Upon arrival, fire officials say they found dark smoke coming from the rear of the building, along with flames that could be seen coming out of the roof.
“We advanced with attack lines to knock down that fire, which appears like it originated from the exterior of the building. It has gotten up into the roof area of this building,” said Platoon Chief Gary Mosburger at the scene around 5:20 p.m.
“At this point, because of the type of construction, lightweight construction, the heat of the day, it’s a lot of work on our firefighters and safety is of utmost importance to us.”
Two aerial trucks were on scene as of the late afternoon, taking a defensive approach, Mosburger said, meaning no firefighters will enter the structure.
“With all of HVAC units and ventilation units on top of the roof, it’s the safest way to deal with this fire at this point,” he said.
Mosburger said that over the course of fighting the fire, the building’s structural integrity became a concern. “Structural integrity (has) definitely been compromised now,” he said.
“I would estimate this fire is going to be in excess of $1 million damage. Our fire investigators are currently on site who will be contacting the fire marshal’s office, and then they’ll go through the origin cause and circumstances to determine what started this fire.”
As of the late afternoon, Mosburger said fire crews were working to cut the fire off from entering any neighbouring units in the plaza, occupied by a drug store, UPS store and a payday loan business. The rear of the Pizza Hut also backs onto a separate plaza located at 1332 Huron St.
“They did an amazing job of knocking this fire down and keeping it to just this one unit,” Mosburger said of fire crews on scene.
“It could have very easily spread … The wind is very strong, it could have pushed. Luckily we got a good, favourable wind direction, and no exposure issues as of this point.”
Fire crews were expected to remain on scene into the night, he said.
In an interview with Global News on Tuesday evening, just hours after the blaze broke out, Pizza Hut London co-owner and director of marketing Ashley Hilton said she was grateful that everybody was okay.
“I think it’s just starting to sink in slowly as the hours pass by. This is an over 30-year-old restaurant, the third that my father-in-law ever opened here in London, so it’s quite special to us,” Hilton said.
Still waiting to learn the extent of the damage to the northeast London Pizza Hut, she doesn’t know yet know what the next steps will be.
“We’ll be able to save our staff and everything that we can and just continue on. Pizza Hut’s not going anywhere despite this tragedy,” Hilton said.
“Everyone keep their head up high and maybe order a pizza.”