HEMET – A fire at Applebee’s Grill and Bar prompted a citywide response by city of Hemet firefighters Monday, Jan. 30. The popular local restaurant is in the 2500 block of W. Florida Avenue at the southwest intersection of Kirby Street in Hemet.
The fire was reported to city of Hemet emergency dispatchers shortly after 3:30 p.m., by employees and customers who called 911 to report heavy smoke filling the inside of the restaurant.
Firefighters from all five city of Hemet fire stations – including five engine companies, one truck company and a paramedic squad – responded to the fire.
The first arriving fire personnel arrived within minutes and reported observing moderate smoke and flames visible from vents in the side of the building and roof on the northeast corner of the building.
Firefighters immediately began searching the restaurant for the source of the fire, which was determined to have begun inside the wall of the restaurant’s chemical room near the kitchen and a side door.
After discovering the origin of the fire, firefighters mounted an aggressive fire attack. They quickly cut through the wall from both inside and outside the business, allowing them to extinguish the flames and keep the fire from advancing further into the business’s attic or into other parts of the restaurant.
While firefighters battled the fire, Applebee’s employees could be seen standing in the parking lot of the restaurant. Many used their cell phones to videotape and photograph the firefighters battling the fire, which one employee described as an “electrical fire” in a posting to social media.
Neither fire nor restaurant officials have released the actual cause of the fire, which is still under investigation.
While firefighters worked at bringing the fire under control, officials summoned Southern California Gas Company and Southern California Edison employees to the location to turn off utilities to the restaurant to ensure the safety of citizens, firefighters, and other emergency first responders at the business.
Firefighters had the fire knocked down in less than 30 minutes.
There were no citizen or firefighter injuries related to the fire.
The restaurant sustained minor damage that will require repairs according to Applebee’s employee J.T. Earhart, who said on social media a fire chief estimated it would take at least one week to repair the building, which suffered minor to moderate interior and exterior damage.
Employees expressed on social media that they were hopeful the restaurant would be repaired and opened in time for Sunday’s Super Bowl LI, between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
Earhart was one of those employees expressing his hope that the restaurant would be able to reopen quickly.
“It’s pretty crazy. I wasn’t expecting a fire at work today,” Earhart explained. “I’m kind of bummed. I just wanted to make money, you know.”