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Firefighters respond to three calls — two at the same time

March 1, 2012

Punxsutawney firefighters look at the grill inside Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, searching for the cause of an electrical malfunction that filled the building with smoke at noon Wednesday. (Photo by Larry McGuire)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Damage was kept to a minimum at Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers on Hampton Avenue, when an electrical malfunction in the grill caused the building to fill with smoke at the heart of the lunch hour around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

According to Punxsutawney Fire Department Chief Bryan Smith, the fire began in the grill in the kitchen, although originally, it was reported that the fire had had gone into the roof through the grill hood.

Following an investigation by Lindsey and Elk Run firefighters, it was determined that the fire did not get into the roof, but the grill wiring had somehow overheated, Smith said.

General Manager Julia Winebark said following an investigation, the company’s electrician said the cause of the fire was a bad thermostat on the grill.

Winebark said the restaurant will be open at 10 a.m. today for business as usual.

Minutes before, lightning had struck a house owned by Harold Elkin along Route 119, Young Township, at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday.

Smith said the owner’s sister, Mary Jo Rupert, had been leaving Wal-Mart when she observed smoke coming from the large house located across Route 119.

Firefighters from Central Fire Department investigated the attic to check for signs of a fire, which was discovered, Smith said. But the fire had burned itself out before firefighters arrived.

“The damage was held to burnt insulation, wiring, wood beams and a plastic fan vent in the bathroom that was right below the attic” Smith said.

Firefighters were still at the scene of the Elkin fire when he received the call about the Wendy’s fire, to which Elk Run and Lindsey Fire Companies responded, while Central remained at the scene of the lightning strike.

Also, earlier Wednesday morning, at 8:30 a.m., a fire was reported at a house at 311 Pine St., where residents had seen smoke coming from what they thought was a heating vent, Smith said.

Smith said after firefighters had checked the furnace and the electrical breaker box with the thermal imaging camera, it turned out that the smoke was coming from a surge protector strip plug, where water had accidentally been spilled while one of the residents was watering nearby plants.

In all three fires, there were no injuries reported, and damage was kept to a minimum.

The fire department was assisted at all three scenes by Jefferson County EMS.

Smith said all Punxsy units were back in quarters by 1:15 p.m.

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