Blaze Damages The Fort: Compressor Room Cited in Restaurant Fire
Probationary firefighter Jared Cook stands outside The Fort restaurant in Lebanon, N.H., after dowsing the interior of the compressor room with a firehose on April 5, 2014. A fire temporarily closed the restaurant and adjacent gas station. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Probationary firefighter Jared Cook, right, hoses down the interior of the compressor room at The Fort restaurant in Lebanon, N.H., while Capt. Jim Wheatley holds a flashlight after a fire closed the restaurant and adjacent gas station on April 5, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)(Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon fire Capt. Jim Wheatley, center steps over debris removed from the compressor room at The Fort restaurant in Lebanon, N.H., after a fire on April 5, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Michael Storms, center, a cook at The Fort restaurant in Lebanon, N.H., uses a cell phone to give information about a fire that started in the restaurant's compressor room to the restaurant's manager. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — A blaze that broke out in a storage room at The Fort restaurant on Heater Road last night was put to rest less than an hour after it was reported.
No one was injured in the fire, which was called in by employees at about 9:30 p.m., and the main part of the building, which comprises the restaurant and convenience store, was not damaged.
“The guys made a quick stop to the fire,” said Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos.
The room is not far from the gas pumps, but Christopoulos was not worried about them catching fire. “Everything is underground,” he said.
Firefighters cut a hole in the standing seam roof to “vent” the fire, in order to prevent it from being drawn into the main part of the building.
It was unclear last night what caused the blaze, which is under investigation, but it did not appear to be suspicious, Christopoulos said. Employees said the room, which faces Heater Road, contained the compressor that powers the restaurant’s refrigeration system.
Rather than cars belonging to late-night diners, the parking lot at the popular 24-hour truck stop last night was full of fire trucks.
As about 25 or 30 firefighters worked to contain the fire, using water from a hydrant across the street, employees of the restaurant and store waited in the parking lot, wondering whether they would be able to go back to work.
Sodden piles of scorched pink insulation littered the parking lot in front of the room, which was marked off with yellow tape.
Blake Colter, store supervisor, lives less than a mile from the store. He was home watching the Celtics when he heard about the fire and hurried over to the store.
“I’m amazed at the response time,” he said, watching the firefighters.
Gas station attendant Zachary Benoit called 911 after smelling smoke, and the customers and his fellow employees quickly left the building.
“I thought it was going to be a boring night,” he said, as snow sputtered in the flashing emergency lights.
Bruce Kaler travels from Rumney, N.H., to his job at The Fort, where he has waited tables for 10 or 11 years.
It was slow for a Saturday night, and only a handful of customers were in the restaurant when he and his colleagues started smelling smoke.
“I’m out of an income tonight,” he said.
But then, employees were given the OK to return to the building.
The Jiffy Mart, which is owned by Champlain Oil Co. in Burlington, reopened at 10:15 p.m.
The restaurant, owned by Bob Hazlett, opened soon afterward.
In addition to the Lebanon Fire Department, the Hanover and Hartford fire departments from also responded, and the Enfield Fire Department provided station coverage, Christopoulos said.
Aimee Caruso can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3210.