RURAL URBANA - The owners of a popular restaurant hope to rebuild after an early morning fire Sunday destroyed their restaurant's kitchen.
Firefighters were called to the Apple Dumpling Restaurant at 2014 Highcross Road, east of Urbana, at about 7:28 a.m. Sunday with a report of a grease fire in the kitchen. The restaurant had not yet opened for business, and the only person in the building was the cook, who was not injured.
More than 50 firefighters from eight area volunteer fire departments responded to the blaze.
The cook told firefighters he tried to extinguish the fire by activating a fire suppression system that releases a dry chemical in a powder form onto the grill to extinguish a fire, said Steve Thuney, deputy chief of the Carroll Fire Department.
Thuney said the cook didn't believe the suppression system worked, and firefighters didn't find any evidence the powder had been released.
The fire was contained in the kitchen and attic, but damage is estimated at $150,000, most of it to the kitchen and cooking equipment.
Owners Rita and Bob Wingler opened the restaurant in July 1985.
It has become a popular spot with many regular breakfast customers.
Rita Wingler talked with several customers as they arrived for brunch Sunday, not knowing of the fire. She said they begged her and her husband to rebuild.
"They were really hurt that they can't come out there," she said. "These people know us and we know them. We might not know them by name, but we know them as a regular."
Wingler said she and her husband hope to reopen the restaurant, but it depends on what she finds out from their insurance company.
She expressed her appreciation for the firefighters who saved the rest of the one-story, wood-frame building.
"We are really thankful for the fire department," Wingler said. "My husband and I got a call at 7:30 this morning. We got up and got dressed and got over there. There were four firetrucks there at the time, and they were all from out of our district, then ours came up, then some more from out of town.
"They all did real good and we'd like to give them recognition," she continued. "If they hadn't come from out of district, we would have lost it. And we didn't have coffee, pop or anything for them since the power was shut down."
Thuney said firefighters didn't have any problems in putting out the fire, but at least one fire hose was driven over by a car, and a ticket was issued to the driver.
The fire is still under investigation, but it is believed to be cooking related, Thuney said.
Carroll firefighters were called back to the scene shortly after 11 a.m. after employees reported seeing light smoke near the roof.
Firefighters didn't find any fire, but looked for additional hot spots in the building.
You can reach Jodi Heckel at (217) 351-5216 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .