UPDATED 3:25 p.m. Thursday
RANTOUL -- Authorities are still not sure what caused a natural gas fire at a Rantoul business Thursday afternoon that caused an estimated $50,000 damage.
The fire started when a natural gas meter ruptured on the west side of Dunkin’ Donuts, 402 S. Century Blvd.
Firefighters were called about 12:20 p.m.
Businesses and homes up to a block away from the site were evacuated as flames issued from the meter.
Firefighters cooled the side of the building with water while waiting for the natural gas service to be turned off. Fire Chief Ken Waters said the firefighters let the fire burn rather than put it out, to eliminate natural gas from possibly pooling, which would have created a greater chance for explosion.
Waters said a crew from Nicor dug about 30 inches down to cut the gas line and cap it.
The fire damaged a cooler near the meter and part of the building, Waters said.
“The north end of the cooler, the insulation’s gone,” Waters said, “and inside the cooler there’s about 4 inches of water. ...”
He said firefighters cut a hole in the building to eliminate hot spots.
Waters’ estimate of damage included lost product. In addition to a Dunkin’ Donuts, the building houses a Baskin Robbins.
Store personnel were allowed to return to the store about 15 minutes after the fire was extinguished.
He said a customer who drove up to the drive-through window alerted employees to the fire.
“The people inside had no idea it was burning,” the fire chief said.
Waters said firefighters were on the scene for about two hours. Thomasboro Fire Department assisted at the scene.
Waters said about 18 Rantoul firefighters responded to the call.
Waters said the building is owned by Sunil Modi.