HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – Firefighters battled a three-alarm restaurant fire on Airline Drive in north Harris County early Thursday.
The Little York Fire Department first responded to Charlie's BBQ, north of Little York, at 5:30 a.m., “to find the fire through the roof,” Don Gilkey, chief deputy with the Little York Fire Department, said.
The raging fire quickly forced firefighters to pull a second and third alarm. Air 11 was over the blaze at about 6:30 a.m. as massive flames and billowing smoke rose into the dark sky.
“Yeah, we did have high winds today and it spread the fire pretty quickly.”
Little York FD said there was a major problem with the water supply along Airline, so they had to set up temporary water containers in the roadway to bring in water from the city of Houston.
KHOU11 Reporter Melissa Correa saw firefighters tap into at least one hydrant that was more than a half-mile from the restaurant.
“So this is unincorporated Harris County, and some portions of Harris County unfortunately doesn’t have any water running to it,” explained Gilkey when asked about the lack of fire hydrants in the area.
When asked if a nearby water supply could have helped save the restaurant, Gilkey said this, “Yes. There’s always some portion of the restaurant that could have been saved.”
North Town Auto Center is down the road from Charlie’s. The business sells and inspects cars. On their property, they also keep a large supply of propane.
“If it would have been over here we don’t have any fire hydrants, it would have been way worse,” said North Town Auto Center’s David Menendez. “I don’t have words for it.”
Menendez is like more than a dozen other business owners and employees along the stretch of Airline Drive who didn’t know there was a water supply problem in their area.
In a press conference Gilkey explained that up to seven fire tanker trucks from area departments hustled to repeatedly drive in water. “It takes every bit of 30 minutes to 45 minutes to establish a good water supply.”
No injuries were reported, but the restaurant burned to the ground and is a complete loss.
The Harris County Fire Marshal’s office is investigating the cause. As part of the investigation, employees with the fire marshal’s office are checking with businesses along Airline Road to find out if they have security cameras and video that may have captured the moments leading up to the Thursday morning fire.
According to the restaurant's website, Charlie's BBQ has been in business since 1979. Viewers on the KHOU 11 Facebook page said the restaurant was once called Sam's and also Hungry Farmer.