Restaurant erupts into fireball

By Brian Entin - bio | email

RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - Smoke from Denny's Restaurant in Richmond Hill could be seen for miles on Tuesday.

The restaurant caught fire shortly before 2 p.m. and Richmond Hill firefighters say it was fully engulfed within minutes.

"I'm jittery. It's a scary thing. I'm just glad everyone is okay," Denny's employee Ann Pierce said.

Pierce said it started with a little smoke and before long the entire building was a fireball. "The adrenaline is there and you just want to get everyone out. You don't feel it until afterwards. Everyone did get out, and that's a huge relief," Pierce said.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, they say the building was already in flames. It was too late to save the structure, so they went into defense mode to protect a nearby Days Inn.

"We contained it and kept it from spreading to the hotel, which is a really good thing because that is a wooden hotel behind it," Richmond Hill Fire Chief Vernon Rushing said.

Rushing says a preliminary investigation indicates the fire started in the roof near an electrical system.

"It's hard to tell when you have so much damage exactly where it started, but from the witnesses, I think it's easy to tell it started in the attic," Rushing said.

It took firefighters nearly four hours to finally get the fire completely out. Even the sign which is nearly 30 feet in the air was scorched.

"I'm glad they all got out safely and that no one was harmed. It's a good day for all except for the restaurant," Lucas McCallar said.

Firefighters say an insurance investigator will be at the scene Wednesday.

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