Fire, caused by electrical wiring, damages Beaufort Mexican restaurant

emoody@beaufortgazette.com and mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comMay 21, 2013 

A fire believed to be caused by electrical wire failure damaged La Nopalera in Beaufort early Tuesday.

No one was in the building at the time, and no one was hurt.

A passerby reported flames coming from the building at about 2:30 a.m., and the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department was dispatched to the Mexican restaurant on Ribaut Road at 2:38 a.m., according to spokesman John Robinson.

It began in a shed behind the restaurant, but spread to the eves and roof of the restaurant. According to a news release, flames were up to 30 feet high when firefighters arrived on the scene.

The fire melted and ignited an outside gas meter and forced firefighters to allow it to burn freely in order to prevent an explosion, fire chief Sammy Negron said. Firefighters worked to protect the building from the fire while waiting S.C. Electric & Gas to arrive and close the valve on the utility line.

It took the utility company about 30 minutes to arrive. Crews had to dig up and isolate the gas pipe at the road because the valve at the meter was melted by the fire, Robinson said.

The shed and its contents were consumed by the fire. Most of the damage is confined to that area, but some repairs to roof rafters and decking will be required, according to the release.

There is limited water and smoke damage to the restaurant.

Though the investigation continues, it appears the fire was accidental and sparked by electrical wiring, according to the release.

More than 30 firefighters battled the blaze, and crews were on scene until about 5:45 a.m. The Beaufort-Port Royal firefighters were assisted by personnel from Beaufort County EMS, the Burton Fire District, Marine Corps Parris Island Fire Department and the Beaufort County Fire Scene Investigation Team.

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