A fire at Satchel’s Pizza on Tuesday night forced the evacuation of 25 customers and could keep the restaurant closed for up to six weeks.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but Gainesville Fire Rescue Chief Gene Prince said 20 firefighters and seven emergency vehicles responded after receiving a call at 6:47 p.m. about smoke in the restaurant’s kitchen. Nobody was hurt.
Firefighters cut holes in the roof of the building to make sure the fire was contained.
“In older buildings like this, with several layers of roofs, you can have a hidden space,” Prince said.
Firefighters came down from the roof after they found more live fire, which they continued to fight from the ground.
They climbed back up a few minutes later, sparks flying as they cut into the metal roof with saws.
Prince said the fire was out by 8 p.m.
Satchel Raye, owner of Satchel’s Pizza, was eating dinner with his family on the outdoor patio at the restaurant when the general manager said he saw smoke inside.
Raye, 44, said he ran outside and saw smoke coming out of the back corner of the kitchen outside of the building. He told the manager to cut the power to the restaurant and evacuate everyone inside.
Raye called 911, then grabbed a hose and started spraying the building with water.
The cause of the fire was unknown at press time, but Raye said, “It was something in the attic. It wasn’t any of our equipment.”
Wade McMullen, who works at Satchel’s, was inside the restaurant when he saw light smoke coming from the kitchen, he said.
Employees got customers out of the restaurant “quietly and calmly,” he said, and firefighters and police arrived about three minutes after they were called.
Satchel’s patrons and concerned pizza lovers gathered on the perimeter of the parking lot, watching as firefighters sprayed the building.
The smoke dissipated by 7:30 p.m., but the smell of burned cheese and melted plastic lingered.
Raye said a brand-new air conditioning unit, which had been in the kitchen for one day, was destroyed. The roof was damaged, and the restaurant was flooded.
“The kitchen is shot,” he said, because water and debris were everywhere.
Raye guessed it will take six weeks to clean up and re-open Satchel’s.
“We’re gonna build it back better than it was,” he said.
Contact Erin Jester at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gainesville Fire Rescue workers sit outside Satchel's Pizza on Tuesday night.