By Jason A. Smith
The Henry County Fire Department is investigating the cause of a blaze that damaged a local restaurant Friday afternoon.
The fire started at approximately 1:55 p.m., at the Burger King, located at 1086 West Ga. Highway 20 in McDonough.
Henry County Fire Chief Barry Jenkins was on the scene in the wake of the incident. Although the cause of the fire is yet to be determined, he said it appears to have begun in the ventilation system overlooking a grill in the kitchen of the restaurant.
"A lot of times, grease builds up in those vent systems, and ignites," said Jenkins. "Most of the time, they go out on their own once the grease is turned off," he said. "In this particular case, it got up into the attic, and we had a fire in the vent system."
Pamela Lopez, a cook at the restaurant, was one of the first people to see the flames. She said the fire began when a fan fell into a broiler in the kitchen.
"[A co-worker] tried to get the fan out, and burned his hand," said Lopez. "I was really scared. I thought, 'I better get out of here.'"
Lopez, her fellow employees and customers in the restaurant reportedly escaped without further injury.
Jenkins said that, when firefighters arrived at the scene, they reported "very heavy smoke" coming from inside the building.
"The building was already evacuated," he said. "We got our people inside and up on the roof, and extinguished the fire pretty quickly."
Firefighters quenched the flames within approximately half an hour, and worked afterward to ensure the fire would not start up a second time. The department's division chief of operations, Brad Johnson, said the fire was confined to the kitchen and the attic, and did not further damage the structure.