Officials say an updated cooking stove hood system likely saved the Mandarin House from burning down Friday morning.
The fire started after hours in the stove area of the Asian restaurant’s kitchen at 1200 S. Highway 87 when no one was working.
The automatic sprinkler system in the hood doused the flames, keeping them at bay until firefighters arrived, said Capt. Rick Winton with the Payson Fire Department.
The owners had reportedly updated the hood within the last year to meet fire codes.
Ironically, the fire occurred on the last day of work for Fire Marshal Bob Lockhart.
The town recently eliminated Lockhart’s position to save $60,000, saying it would hire outside contractors to cover his duties.
Lockhart guided Winton through the investigation of the fire Friday, a capstone to eight years of work with the department and town.
Lockhart said he had worked with the owners to bring the hood up to par.
“Because of him enforcing that code (the hood) passed inspection and was working properly,” Winton said.
Firefighters held the blaze to the kitchen area, although heavy smoke damaged the rest of the building.
A passerby spotted smoke coming from the gable ends of the building and roof vents about 8:30 a.m. and called for help.
Firefighters broke through the front door and discovered black smoke throughout.
With no visibility, crews used a thermo-imaging camera to locate the seed of the fire in the kitchen.
Crews quickly knocked back the flames, containing it to the stove area.
Winton said it is unclear how the fire started, but it is not suspicious at this time.
There was significant damage to the stove area and the rest of the building due to heavy smoke, heat and firefighters pulling down paneling to access the attic.
To purchase photos of this fire click here: Mandarin Cafe