When a freak fire forced the closure of one of Wagga’s finest restaurants, the shock was matched by a spark of kitchen jokes.
On Sunday afternoon, a freak fire broke out at The Oakroom restaurant, in Wagga’s Townhouse hotel. But once the smoke cleared, the jokes came thick and fast.
“The firies were pretty funny, they were looking to come back for some char-grilled steaks later on,” Townhouse general manager Andrew Buik laughed.
“So yes, a fire in a kitchen does provide plenty of ammunition for jokes put it that way.”
A massive cleanup is now underway after the newly-dried hand towels spontaneously combusted in the kitchen.
The kitchen was closed at the time the fire broke out so no one saw the flames or smoke until the automatic fire alarm went off and alerted reception.
Firefighters arrived within 10 minutes and while the fire was quickly put out, the storeroom next to the kitchen was gutted.
“You sort of hear about spontaneous combustion happening in grain silos and haystacks and things like that so to have it happen here was a complete shock,” Mr Buik said.
“They were obviously burnt to smithereens, we had a lot of melted chocolate in the storeroom, which was an interesting cleanup, but the fire spread through the air vents to the main part of the kitchen and caused a lot of electrical damage and melted power points and the vents themselves.
“Now we’ve got to pull the whole kitchen apart.”
The cleanup effort has seen everyone from the hotel owners through to kitchen staff and even chefs pitching in to help.
“It’s a best guess at the moment as we’re still getting figures but the damage bill is well in excess of $50,000 and we still don’t know how badly the damage in the ceiling is”, Mr Buik said.
The fire has forced booked functions to be moved elsewhere while nearby restaurants have kindly offered to feed the Townhouse’s 50 guests this week and have their meals charged back to their rooms for convenience.
“Wagga is obviously a close-knit community,” Mr Buik said.
“These kind of things have happened to other businesses and while it’s a first for us, it’s great to see others jump in and I’m delighted with the response we’ve had.”
The Oakroom will remain closed until late August, pending a rebuild of the kitchen.