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Fire causes $200,000 in damage to restaurant

An early-morning fire at Perkins Family Restaurant, 11929 U.S. 19, chased about 30 employees and customers outside as it engulfed an adjacent decorative roof.

No injuries were reported, but the restaurant sustained an estimated $200,000 in damage in the two-alarm blaze, Pasco County fire Chief Mike Morgan said. Firefighters were called to the scene at 2:14 a.m. Saturday.

Morgan said the fire destroyed the overhanging roof attached to the main structure and slightly damaged the restaurant's own roof. His investigation determined that the cause of the fire was faulty electrical wiring of lighting fixtures under the ornamental roof.

The building's water sprinklersprevented the flames from spreading inside the restaurant, which sustained smoke and water damage.

"It was a very difficult fire to fight because of where it was located," Morgan said. "We had trouble accessing it. It took about 30 or 40 minutes to bring it under control."

Mark L. Smith, a former firefighter who works as a freelance photographer for firefighter magazines, said the flames were hidden inside the roof for a while.

"In the incipient stage, very little of the fire was visable," Smith said. "It was burning inside the ceiling, but not much of it was visable. Then it slowly progressed and spread out a little bit more.

"Soon, smoke started pouring out the end of the building. They (firemen) knew it was more serious than they originally thought."

High winds stoked the flames and caused them to spread over 40 percent of the roof. The intense heat caused the steel roof trusses to warp, but the flames never reached inside the building.

The smoldering fire rekindled Saturday morning, but Pasco County firemen tore a hole in the roof and within an hour doused the stubborn flames.