ENGLEWOOD — Every Englewood firefighter on duty Thursday was called upon to fight the fire at Taco Bell.
New Englewood Area Fire Chief Kevin Easton was across the street on his way to lunch when he looked over and saw flames shooting out from the roof. He didn’t hesitate to call for help on his radio.
The fire started on the roof and engulfed the back left corner of the building in the front corner of Palm Plaza, 1909 McCall Rd. Construction workers were doing exterior stucco renovations.
The fire was confined to the outside of the restaurant, mainly the roof. The inside did not burn, however a large amount of water and smoke damage was evident.
Nobody was injured.
“A few of us were meeting for lunch in the next plaza over from Taco Bell when the call came in,” said Richard Chapman, Englewood Fire Department fire prevention coordinator. “The chief was close by and I went to get an additional engine.”
When the chief arrived, the Taco Bell manager was evacuating customers and four employees. No one was hurt, Chapman said.
“All Englewood fire stations responded as well as Sarasota Battalion 4,” Chapman said. “Charlotte County Rescue 12 covered our stations 74 and 75 and North Port covered our station 71. We had at least 18 firefighters, the chief, assistant chief and myself out here.”
Sheriff’s deputies were called in to help with traffic control. People who saw the flames and large plume of black smoke pulled into the shopping center to get a better look and maybe upload some photos or live footage onto their social media accounts.
As firefighters battled the blaze, Taco Bell employees stayed in the parking lot. They were later questioned by the local fire marshal. He also spoke with the construction workers on the site.
Firefighters used the aerial nozzle on the ladder truck to extinguish the fire which restarted a few times outside the building.
“We had to cut a hole in the roof and pull down some ceiling, but the fire didn’t spread inside the restaurant. There’s water damage. It was all exterior where the construction workers were working,” Easton said.
“The state fire marshal was there along with someone from the Charlotte County Building Department as I was leaving.”
Florida Power & Light quickly responded and shut down electricity to the building. Nearby Goodwill was open, but the parking lot was blocked for hours by the eight fire vehicles and additional thick fire hoses that snaked around the businesses.
“There’s a natural gas line near where the fire was burning,” Chapman said. “We got to it quick enough that there wasn’t a problem with it.”
The fire didn’t spread to the front of the building or near the drive-through. However, Taco Bell will be closed until the building passes fire inspections. No one from Taco Bell headquarters returned calls to the Sun Thursday.