SALISBURY — East Fisher Street’s bad luck continued Tuesday when a fire broke out in an air conditioning unit above Cartucci’s Restaurant.
Crews found smoke pouring from an exhaust vent in the rear of the eatery just after 5 p.m. Within about an hour, crews had knocked the fire down and were in the process of spraying “hot spots,” firefighters on the scene said.
Salisbury Fire Public Information Officer Chris Kepley said crews were still determining the cause Tuesday evening. No one was injured in the blaze.
“There was a fire in the hood system at Cartucci’s. It appears it was confined to that area but we’re having a delay getting to the overhaul stage and getting to the smoldering parts put out because of the electrical wiring that comes in right there,” Kepley said Tuesday afternoon. “So Duke Energy is working to get the power pulled and breakers shut off so we can get in there and complete the overhaul.”
Crews initially thought the fire may have begun under a pair of air conditioning units on a lower-level roof along the rear of the business.
One employee at Cartucci’s, who declined to provide her name, said workers heard “several loud explosions” before seeing the clouds of smoke.
Investigators were still in the process of determining the extent of damage Tuesday evening.
“I don’t think they’ve been able to get in there and get an estimate on what the damage is going to be because they haven’t gotten in there where they can pull the wall and the ceiling out of there to see how badly burned it is,” Kepley said.
Businesses on East Fisher Street were evacuated and the road and intersection with South Main Street were closed for several hours as more than eight fire trucks, including at least three ladder trucks, parked along the downtown crossroads.
Crews placed ladders along the 100 block and scaled the front of Cartucci’s. A plume of smoke could be seen gushing from under the AC units on the roof along the rear of the structure.
Joe White, a janitor at Benchwarmers Sports Bar, which sits beside the burned building, said two employees from Cartucci’s yelled for him to evacuate just about the time he saw smoke.
“The girls said they heard an explosion out here and to get the heck out of there,” White said.
Fire units from across the county responded to the fire.
Kepley said the buildings in downtown Salisbury — because of their age and proximity to other structures — get an upgraded initial response.
It’s also important, she said, to rotate firefighters with fresh units when handling a potentially large scale blaze.
“In a building this size, this old, we need all the help we can get. If it tries to get away from us, we would have enough units on the scene,” Kepley said. “This is what we call the central business district. So we actually have a bigger response on the first alarm to these buildings just because they’re so old and so close together. Most of them are not sprinklered, because they were grandfathered in under the old code.”
According to a press release Tuesday night, Duke Power secured power for both Cartucci’s and Watkins Fitness as an additional precaution.
Salisbury Fire and Police departments responded to the scene and mutual aid was provided by Spencer, Granite Quarry, Ellis, Locke, Franklin, China Grove, Faith, Rockwell City, Union, Millers Ferry, Landis and Cleveland Fire Departments, Rowan County EMS, Rowan Rescue Squad and off duty Salisbury Fire Department personnel.