MANCHESTER, NH – A late-night kitchen fire Monday has temporarily shut down operations at Mint Bistro.
According to Manchester Fire Battalion Chief Robert Beaudet, the fire department received an alarm activation for 1105 Elm St. at 10:27 p.m.
“As soon as we entered the building we could see black smoke in the building so we called for additional engines for a working fire,” said Beaudet, among the first to arrive. “If they didn’t have that alarm, it would have been a long night,” he added, noting that the entire building could have been lost, including several other businesses on that block, and residential apartments above the restaurant.
First-responding firefighters carried in a hand extinguisher and quickly knocked down the blaze, which was located next to the stove on metal racks. Firefighters also ran a hose into the building as a precaution but it was not needed, Beaudet said.
Mint is normally closed Mondays.
“The last person in the building left at 3:30 p.m., he was just here to do some cleaning,” Beaudet said.
Mint owner Tim Baines arrived shortly after firefighters. He went inside to take a look at the damage once the fire was extinguished, and spoke briefly with City Fire Marshal Peter Lennon.
“The fire marshal ruled out anything nefarious. It’s a mystery,” said Baines of the fire. Visible damage inside the kitchen included two metal racks and an area of a wall behind the racks. “I’ll know more tomorrow, but for now I’d say it will be at least a couple of weeks before we are back to normal.”
Police were dispatched at 10:35 p.m. to assist, shutting down access to that block of Elm Street and diverting traffic at Bridge Street.
Kitchen manager Nefta Hernandez also came to see the damage. He was in the kitchen with a flashlight trying to figure out what could have caused the fire. He noted that some electrical wires in the vicinity of where the fire happened were undamaged.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Hernandez, who has worked at Mint for seven years. “Every Monday he comes in and cleans,” he said, referring to one of his kitchen assistants, Iribaldo Orozco, who came with Hernandez to help Baines with the initial clean-up.
“It’s sad to see,” Hernandez said. “It’s going to take some time to put it all back together.”
Baines said he would remain at the restaurant a few more hours, calling his insurance company and doing paperwork before meeting with someone from the city health department in the morning.
“I’ll have to contact all the staff – I have no idea what to make of it. It appears something ignited on the shelf. The damage is pretty significant,” Baines said.
Updates will be posted via Mint’s Facebook page, he said.
Bar patrons at the neighboring McGarvey’s were curious and concerned, and several of them perched outside to watch the action. They thanked the fire department for their efforts as they departed.
Beaudet roughly estimated the damage at about $20,000.