Fast food service at the U.S. 701/NC 24 McDonalds in Clinton was grounded to a halt during the breakfast rush Tuesday as a fire, which started in the kitchen’s grease trap, quickly ignited three deep fryers and began to spread.
Clinton firefighters, called to the scene around 7:50 a.m., were able to quickly contain the blaze, minimizing any structural damage, but they were not able to prevent the business from shutting down at least for the remainder of the day and likely for the next several.
Sampson County Health Department officials will make the final ruling on when the fast food chain can reopen to the public. Environmental staff at the agency were on scene and could not be reached for comment.
Clinton Fire Chief Adon Snyder Jr. said when the first started in the grease trap it quickly consumed all three of the fryer, went up the wall and into the venting system, heading toward the roof.
“For whatever reason, the fire suppression system did not activate,” Snyder said, “and the fire began to spread.”
But the quick work of firefighters brought the blaze under control in short order. “We were pretty lucky,” Snyder said. “We were able to get the thing contained and minimize the damage.”
McDonalds employees waited outside as firefighters from Clinton, Halls, Taylors Bridge and Salemburg worked around the building. Also on scene was Sampson’s Emergency Management Services and fire marshall Jerry Cashwell.
Clinton Police had their hands full directing traffic around the fire trucks positioned along U.S. 701, trying to keep curious motorists moving rather than slowing to see what was happening.
The investigation has been turned over to Cashwell’s department, Snyder said. Health officials were on scene as well, assessing the damage and determining when the business could safely reopen.
“There’s still a lot to be determined,” the fire chief noted. “Most of the damage was contained to the deep fryers, but there is still some smoke and extinguishing agent to contend with in there. That is being cleaned up now.”
Calls to Caison Enterprises owner Hugh Caison, who owns the McDonalds, were not immediately returned.