A fire in the vents of an Irvine restaurant on Wednesday afternoon forced employees and patrons to evacuate as crews battled the blaze.
A waiter, at about 2:20 p.m., noticed smoke coming out of the vents in the second floor of the McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant in the 2000 block of Main Street. By the time firefighters arrived, smoke was coming out of the vents of all three floors of the restaurant. Crews evacuated 20 employees and 15 customers, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said.
Firefighters cut a hole in the roof of the building, finding flames underneath that had spread through the ventilation system, Concialdi said. The sprinkler system helped keep the flames from spreading outside the vents, he added. About 55 firefighters brought the blaze under control by just after 3:10 p.m., but were still searching the building to make sure that flames hadn’t spread to any other “hidden areas,” Concialdi said. They remained on scene for several hours to get the smoke out of the building.
The health department has been notified, Concialdi said, and the restaurant will remain closed until it can be inspected for safety. Authorities believe the fire was caused by a gap in a vent over a brewery kettle. Hot air and steam escaped into an attic space, causing the wood to heat up over time. The fire caused an estimated $400,000 in damage to the building, as well as $300,000 in damage to its contents. A group of employees relaxed on a nearby grassy spot and watched as the firefighters worked. They declined to comment. Water covered the floor on the first level of the restaurant, while a heavy smell of smoke lingered through the building.