Garbage fire behind Gingham restaurant in La Mesa sparks multiple explosions

Propane tanks behind Gingham restaurant exploded

LA MESA, Calif. - A popular restaurant in La Mesa was closed Sunday after a garbage fire sparked multiple explosions.

The fire occurred at about 5:45 a.m. in a pile of garbage behind Gingham restaurant in the 8300 block of La Mesa Boulevard, according to Sonny Saghera, the public information officer for the Heartland Fire & Rescue Department.

Fire crews arrived minutes later and reported 10-foot flames and multiple explosions caused by propane tanks. The initial fire engine reported around five to six explosions and approximately eight to 10 ruptured propane tanks. According to Saghera, there were a total of about 35 propane tanks in the area.

Firefighters stretched hose lines to the building's exterior and immediately doused the fire while they cooled the remaining tanks, Saghera said. Crews confined the blaze to the outside of the restaurant and nearby music store McCrea Music Company. The fire caused about $50,000 in damage to the structure and its contents. No injuries were reported.

Gentry McCrea, who is with the McCrea Music Company, told 10News "It's fortunate it happened early in the morning… could have been a lot worse."

He added, “The quick reaction of firefighters really saved our building. They stopped the flames from going up toward our ceiling.”

Fire investigators determined the blaze was caused by oily rags bunched together that were stored in a bin near the propane tanks, Saghera said. The organic materials from the oil in the rags build up heat over time and spontaneously ignite.

Saghera said rags or towels that were used to clean up oil or grease should be laid out to dry, not balled up, before they are stored in approved containers.

Gingham is the third culinary effort of celebrity chef Brian Malarkey and James Brennan, according to the restaurant's website.

The restaurant will remain closed Monday, according to a tweet from the restaurant's Twitter account. It is unclear when it will reopen.


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