By Katie Moore
Topeka Capital Journal – March 22, 2017
Customers and employees at a west Topeka restaurant were startled Tuesday night to learn a fire had started in a storage area outside.
Gerald Edwards was driving past the Old Chicago restaurant at 1231 S.W. Wanamaker about 5:15 p.m. when he noticed black smoke in the rear of the structure. He stopped, ran inside and told everyone to get out, he told The Topeka Capital-Journal.
At first, Edwards said, people looked at him like he was crazy, but then began exiting the restaurant.
When fire crews arrived, they found heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear, Fire Marshal Mike Martin said, and requested a second alarm for manpower.
No injuries were reported, Martin said.
While the cause is undetermined, Martin said in a news release, it likely was associated with “the careless use or disposal of smoking materials.”
The fire did an estimated $50,000 in damage — $35,000 in structural damage and $15,000 in content loss, Martin said. The building’s interior sustained smoke damage.
Old Chicago employee Chris Reed said he was putting in an order when he became aware that his manager was calling 911. Though kitchen employees tried to put out the fire with extinguishers, the blaze was out of control. The manager then told everyone to evacuate.
As the fire wasn’t inside the building, Reed said, everyone remained fairly calm.
Martin said the Kansas Department of Agriculture was notified. The restaurant was likely to remain closed at least through Tuesday night.
Traffic within the shopping area was blocked because of fire hoses while crews remained at the restaurant.
The Topeka Police Department, Kansas Gas Service and Westar Energy assisted.