Santa Rosa Carl's Jr. cooks for first responders, catches on fire

Arby's, Applebees, McDonald’s – all these restaurants along highway 101 were destroyed by the fire that tore through Santa Rosa.

A Carl’s Jr. around the corner though, survived the fire. 

But now. it too has fallen victim to fire. 

Customers were turned away from the restaurant on Industrial Drive. 

"It's really sad," said a man who wanted to be identified only as Ken. "I was going to go in there to get something to eat.And now they're closed."

On Thursday, restaurant workers were cooking 165 charbroiled super star cheeseburgers for first responders to the urban firestorm. But a grease fire broke out at about 11 a.m. 

"Next thing I knew, a customer ran in the front door and said, 'You've got about a six-foot flame - torch - shooting out the top of your roof," said Greg Funkhouser, who owns the restaurant and seven other Carl's Jr. locations. 

"The thing that really tore me up was not being able to serve the guys over there on the other side of the freeway," Funkhouser said, referring to the fire-ravaged Fountaingrove area.  

The crew was about halfway done with the burgers and fries for emergency workers. 

"It's very ironic, to survive the big one and then to have this take us out, especially when we're trying to provide something good for somebody," he said. Chuckling wryly, he added, "I don't even know how to express it." 

Santa Rosa firefighters said they found fire in the hood system and ventilation fan in the kitchen. The fire spread to wood in the attic. The blaze was controlled in about 15 minutes.
 
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Damage to the structure and kitchen equipment was estimated to be $75,000.

Funkhouser said it could take months to reopen. 

That means loyal customers like Ken will have to wait for their Famous Stars and fried zucchini. 
We asked Ken what he was going to do. He told us he would skip lunch.

Then he said with a smile, "I'm going over to the gym to work out."
 

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