By Lucas Geisler
SALINE COUNTY, Mo. — State fire investigators noted past problems with a fire suppression system at a gas station that burned down in November.
The report from the Missouri State Fire Marshal said the hood suppression system attached to grills in the Dairy Queen restaurant weren’t properly installed to Laboratory Underwriters standards. The work order from Keller Fire and Safety also noted the system filters were dirty and that the appliances were “not properly covered with correct nozzles.”
The report from inspector Chad Hildebrand obtained by ABC 17 News ruled the fire that destroyed the gas station and restaurant off Interstate 70 on Nov. 1 as accidental. Three teenage workers at the DQ said a hot grill began to catch fire around 7 p.m. that night. The trio said they could not find anything to put out the fire with, and their manager advised them to get out of the building.
The marshal’s inspection found heavy damage along the wall by the grills. Damage to the building made it difficult for the inspector to figure out if the suppression system, which was still intact, actually worked.
“The tank to the system felt extremely light as if it was empty, however there was not a gauge present on this system,” Hildebrand wrote. “The fusible link attached to the system was not located.”
The workers, whose names were withheld because they are juveniles, said they never saw the hood system activate, which could have tamped down the fire when it started.
Firefighters with the Blackwater Fire Protection District, which led the initial response, said the suppression system put out a fire in 2017 at the DQ. Chief Tim Doty said the system put out a grill fire, but he was unsure if the system was ever recharged.
Hildebrand said he got a hold of the latest inspection for the suppression system, done by Keller on July 22, 2019. The inspection noted several problems, including the improper installation. The system was also not connected to the fire alarms in the building. The technician left a report with suggested fixes, but Hildebrand’s inspection does not say if Fast and Friendly LLC, which owned the gas station, followed the advice.
The inspection also noted the system had not been discharged prior to inspection.
Business owner Abdul Quddus told Hildebrand he did not remember a time when the suppression system went off at Stuckey’s. He also “denied having a fire in the business in the past.”
One of the teenage workers said they were working the counter when the store became busy around 7 p.m. The worker told Hildebrand the grill appeared “blacker” than usual and cooked the hamburger patties quickly.
A second worker said they began working at 4:45 p.m. An outgoing cook told them that the grill was “cooking hotter than normal,” according to the report. The worker said the grill appeared “cherry red” at one point. They turned the grill heat down in response.
A bit later, the worker said they put ten patties on the grill. When they tried flipping them, the worker said flames began to shoot from the surface of the grill.
The teenagers tried throwing several boxes of fry salt on the grill to put it out, the second worker said. When that didn’t work, they notified their manager, who advised they all leave the store.
That manager, Cali Hart, told Hildebrand she saw a male customer try to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher. Hildebrand said fire crews did find an empty extinguisher by the back door.
The original story can be found here.