BELLEVILLE — An off-duty firefighter's quick thinking was credited Tuesday with saving a popular Belleville watering hole from going up in flames.
The firefighter, on his way to training, noticed smoke coming from the rear of Friday's South Inc. at 624 S. Illinois St.
Fire Chief Tom Pour said the call came in at about 8:50 a.m.
"It hadn't been burning a long time so, fortunately, we were able to put it out quickly," Pour said. "That's a good thing because a fire can double in size in no time. And then it could have been a much different situation."
Pour said the fire started near a sealed door in a storage room. On the outside of the door an aluminum carport structure was being used as a patio area, so it was tough for firefighters to get access to the door where the fire started.
When they got to it, they hacked down the door and it laid, smoldering, in the middle of the parking lot while firefighters inspected the building.
Pour said there was smoke throughout the interior. But there was no structural damage beyond the door. Officially, firefighters said the fire was still under investigation. But employees on the parking lot were discussing that a bag full of linseed oil-soaked rags used to clean the business' floors had been left where the fire started.
Manager Kathy Winkelman said she was grateful to the fire department for saving the business.
"I'm just so happy that someone saw the smoke and made the call," Winkelman said. "The fire department did a great job putting it out before the fire got out of control."
Pour said the business would remain closed until the St. Clair County Health Department inspected the facilities and deemed them safe.
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