BEND, OR -- A downtown Bend cafe is set to reopen Tuesday, after a grease fire forced the evacuation and closure of the restaurant on Monday.
The blaze broke out at about 10 a.m. at Mother’s Downtown Kitchen, next to the Oxford Hotel. Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe tells KBND News an employee was heating up a large pot of cooking oil when a small amount of water caused a big problem. "When you heat cooking oil, it gets way, way hotter than water – you know, it’s 400 to 500-degrees. And, any foreign material or any water that happens to fly in there and hit will make a certain amount of the oil vaporize. The flame underneath the pot ignites that and the whole thing ignites. A ball of fire came roaring out from underneath the hood."
He estimates it caused about $30,000 in damage, but he says it could've been much worse, "The sprinkler system went off and put off a lot of water. The water’s been sitting in that system for years, so it’s basically probably contaminated all the food that was out, so there’s lost revenue." He adds, "It was starting to burn some of the papers that were taped to the hood. Without the sprinkler system, the fire would’ve basically gone unchecked until we got there."
For Howe, it's the perfect example of how sprinkler systems are supposed to work. "They put water on the fire in 1/10th of the time it takes the fire department to put it on there and really busy everybody in the building time to escape or do something; and buys us time to get there and actually make a difference." The sprinkler head in the kitchen put water on the blaze, while the range hood extinguishing system activated and took care of the oil still burning in the pot. Howe says 911 was notified of the blaze by the fire alarm system, as well as a couple of customers.
Employees tell KBND News Mother's Downtown Kitchen will reopen for regular business hours, Wednesday.