According to Pittsburgh Fire Bureau Deputy Chief Harry Scherer, the fire originated in ventilation duct work in the restaurant’s kitchen that had been cleaned earlier in the day.
“[Firefighters] found the wind pushing a lot of smoke around and it was suspected in the restaurant at Morton’s, and someone from the restaurant did say that there was a fire in the kitchen, and we found it in the ventilation duct work,” said Deputy Chief Scherer.
The cleaning of the duct work was routine maintenance, Deputy Chief Scherer said.
Officials say about 25 employees were inside at the time of the fire, but no customers were there yet. All of the employees were able to get out on their own.One employee said the fire was in the main broiler where the steaks are cooked.
“We were standing in the restaurant having a meeting and somebody said the broiler was on fire, and we went in and there was smoke smoldering from above the hood from above the broiler,” he said.
He said some of the employees grabbed fire extinguishers, but the smoke became too heavy. “Everybody got scared at first, but once we saw the smoke outside, then management said we got to get out,” he added.
“So we just all moved out into the street.”Deputy Chief Scherer said crews managed to put out the fire quickly, but it did cause a substantial amount of damage inside.“There’s some smoke and water damage from extinguishing the fire,” Deputy Chief Scherer said.
“The ventilation system itself had to be dismantled to gain access to extinguish the fire. The fire was confined to the duct work. ”No cost estimates for repairs have been released at this time.
And no injuries were reported. But it could have been a lot worse. Deputy Chief Scherer said early detection of the fire and crews getting on scene quickly kept it from spreading.
“When it comes to fire spread, it could spread in any direction, so the good news is we were in quarters and able to get on scene quickly and extinguish the fire,” Deputy Chief Scherer said. Some smoke did make its way over to Heinz Hall, but nothing else was affected.
Deputy Chief Scherer said officials there opened the doors to ventilate building, and Saturday evening events are going on there as planned.Back over at Morton’s, the restaurant will remain closed until the Allegheny County Health Department can come out and check the building.
Officials say they are trying to arrange that for Sunday. There’s no word on how long repairs will take.