http://www.reflector.com/news/bbq-cookh ... 32220.html
BBQ cookhouse damaged
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Friday, February 13, 2009
AYDEN — A wind-driven fire badly damaged the roof of the Skylight Inn restaurant's cookhouse Thursday night, the second fire it sustained in less than six months.
About 20 customers were evacuated from the scene when restaurant manager Samuel Jones discovered the fire just after 6 p.m., said Donald Skinner, public information officer for the Ayden Volunteer Fire Department.
The cookhouse is 10-15 feet from the restaurant, which sports a replica of the U.S. Capitol dome on its roof. It appeared the flames would spread to the main building's roof at one point, but it was spared, Skinner said.
“Because a lot of our guys had gone to Eastern Pines to fight that fire (more than 150 acres there burned earlier in the day) we were a little shorthanded, but with some quick response from the guys left in town and mutual aid from Grifton and Winterville we were able to get it under control quickly,” Skinner said. “And the wind died down; that probably helped us as much as anything.”
The National Weather Service in Newport reported a wind gust of 29 mph at the Pitt-Greenville Airport at about 5:45 p.m.
The Skylight Inn is a nationally recognized, award-winning barbecue restaurant that cooks with wood. It appeared Thursday's fire was caused by embers drifting up and settling into the chimney. High winds stirred the embers, the fire began and rapidly spread down the roof, Skinner said.
“Samuel Jones, whose father is one of the restaurant's owners, said the cook had been gone a few minutes, about 10, 11 minutes had passed, and when he glanced out the window he saw black smoke and when he went out the back door, that's when he saw the flames coming out of the roof,” Skinner said.
It's estimated the building suffered $50,000 damage along with the loss of five pigs that were cooking, Skinner said. Each pig weighed about 80 pounds.
Jones said the restaurant will be closed today but his father and uncle, the other owner, plan to re-open for lunch Saturday. They will use a second cookhouse.
The previous fire occurred Aug. 28, which also was a Thursday. At the time Jones, who also is Ayden's assistant fire chief, said an ember likely started the fire that damaged the interior ceiling. In August, Jones said he was scared to death because he had been at home when the alarm went off and he was unsure which building was on fire.
“It was so much worse this time,” Jones said Thursday. “I walked out the back door this time ... as soon as I walked out fire was blowing through almost the full length of the building.”
Jones' grandfather started the business 61 years ago. The damaged cookhouse was built in the 1960s.
“It's the one that cooked the best pigs,” Skinner said.
Jones said a walk-in cooler stored in a structure next to the cooking pit was undamaged and that will make it easier to re-open.
In 2003, the restaurant received the James Beard Foundation's American Classics Award which honors family-run restaurants.