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By Caroline Downs
The ANSUL fire suppression system did just what it was supposed to do at the Tumbleweed Cafe in Berthold sometime late Sunday or early Monday morning when it extinguished a fire that started on the charbroil grill.
Unfortunately, the system did little to stop the smoke and soot that coated everything in the building.
Owner Jean Fegley knew nothing about the incident until she arrived to open Monday morning. She had been working in the restaurant, which is closed weekends, on Sunday until about 2 pm. “When I came in at 5:30 on Monday, everything was done,” she said. “There was no more smoke, but there was water all over the floor and soot all over everything.”
She immediately called Gary Rademacher of the Berthold Fire Department, who came with another firefighter to inspect the building. “You could smell smoke when you were outside,” he said, “but there was no fire in there at that time.”
Water from the suppression system covered the floor in the kitchen area and the front part of the restaurant, pooling in the northeast corner where it seeped outside. Rademacher said the building’s water was shut off immediately to prevent further damage.
Fegley said inspections and damage estimates with her insurance agent were still to come. From her observations, the fire itself was contained to the charbroil grill and the hood above it. She compared the charbroil grill to an indoor gas grill, with pilot lights, and she believed it somehow ignited.
“The smoke was probably from all the smoldering until the actual fire got going,” she said. “The temperature in the hood triggers the suppression system, so it had to get hot in the top.”
The roof was not damaged and none of her other grills appeared harmed by fire or extreme temperatures. “I had a wooden handled spatula right next to [the charbroil grill] and that wasn’t touched by the flames or heat,” she said. “The hood is another story, but the ANSUL system did exactly what it’s supposed to do.”
On the other hand, soot covered every surface in her restaurant, which was decorated with a variety of antiques and country decor items. “Everything is black,” Fegley said. “That little yellow apron that hangs on the wall? All black.”
She didn’t open for business on Monday or Tuesday, and expected to be closed for a short period of time. “This will be a temporary closure till we can clean up from the fire,” she said.
Those cleaning efforts actually started by 8 am, when a crew of Berthold residents who work for Clean Tech in Minot arrived to remove the water. “They got the water off so it didn’t go up the walls,” said Fegley, “and they’ve already cleaned the carpeted area once, to get the soot off.”
Much of her floor is tile she laid over cement when she purchased the business, so she expected that to clean up easily. She knew her duct work and kitchen ventilation system would need to be thoroughly cleaned, along with every surface in her restaurant, so she booked Clean Tech to return next week, along with a plumber to check fixtures.
Fegley was hoping to contact an electrician as well. “I’m sure we have some electrical issues,” she said. “All the appliances will have to be looked at, and the electric range was doused, so I’m sure that will have to go.”
She was hoping to save her gas convection oven and most of her other appliances. The majority of the food was safely stashed in the cafe’s refrigerator and freezer, both of which seal when closed, although she threw out food items stored on counters and shelves in the kitchen area. She also expected to discard one cooler that operates with an air intake fan.
“You would never know now there was a fire in here. If you walked in the dining room today, you’d think it was dirty until you really looked at the walls,” Fegley said Monday afternoon. “I’ll be back. There will be fresh paint, and everything will be cleaned up.”
Fegley will announce her plans to re-open the Tumbleweed Cafe at a later date.