‘Careless smoker’ sets Sizzler ablaze

See how this restaurant was charred on the outside, while cooks had steaks on the grill inside …

SE 82md Avenue is closed down between SE Powell and Holgate Boulevard, while firefighters fight a blaze at a neighborhood restaurant.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
That wasn’t an overdone steak or burned chicken on the charbroiler that filled the Sizzler Restaurant with thick, dark smoke, on the evening of July 29, and hustled all the customers outside. No, the place was on fire.

The employees and customers gathered in the back of the parking lot of the restaurant at 3700 SE 82nd Avenue, just north of Eastport Plaza, while firefighters worked to extinguish a blaze reported at 7:02 p.m.

The smoke pouring over this Sizzler restaurant isn’t from burned steak; the back of the building is on fire.

“I was in a walkway next to the kitchen when I smelled smoke,” an employee told East Portland News. “We noticed that the lobby was filling up with smoke, and it started coming into the dining room. Everything was okay in the kitchen; someone looked into the attic, and saw the fire.”

Four minutes after the dispatch, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Lents Engine 11 arrived on-scene and radioed in the “size-up” – the initial report. The lieutenant said that fire was burning up the siding at the back of the restaurant, and extending into the attic.

Firefighters open the roof, to access flames that had spread into the building’s attic.

Firefighters from four additional stations were there within minutes.

“The restaurant was occupied at the time, but everyone was able to evacuate safely,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman. “No injuries were reported.”

Crew members on the roof report that the exterior fire has been extinguished.

After the fire was extinguished, Chatman said that fire investigators were able to determine that the fire had started from a cigarette improperly discarded in barkdust near the building.

“Damage estimates are set at $40,000,” Chatman added. “PF&R reminds that, due to unusually dry and warm weather, [be sure to] use caution when smoking near combustible vegetation. Discard cigarettes in proper fire-safe containers with a lid.”

Firefighters cut open the back wall and pry loose the eaves to access any still-burning embers.

Watching the firefighters pull burning cinders from the back of the restaurant, the employee said, “This is something that I used to think happened to other people. It was pretty intense.” The Sizzler is temporarily closed for repairs.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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