A natural gas fire gutted a Red Bank barbecue restaurant Thursday afternoon.
"It doesn't even feel like it's happening right now," Nooga-Q owner Mark Chambers said as he watched his building burn. "I'm sure when I wake up in the morning, it'll hit me in the face."
There was "substantial damage to the building," according to Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner.
"It's too soon to say 'total loss,' but there's no way they're going to be open for business anytime soon," Garner said.
Firefighters from Red Bank and Chattanooga went to the restaurant at 301 Signal Mountain Road at 2:26 p.m. and determined that the fire was caused by a break in the natural gas line, Garner said. It took more than an hour for technicians to shut off the gas, he said.
Walden's Ridge Volunteer Services and Dallas Bay Fire Department also assisted as the afterschool commute stalled on Signal Mountain Road and U.S. 27 North.
Chambers was making a couple of pork sandwiches Thursday afternoon when he noticed "a funny-looking smoke" and heard a horn honking at the restaurant's drive-through window. Fire extinguisher in hand, he ran outside to fight the flames running up the building's back wall.
"But the extinguisher stuff sprayed back on me," Chambers said.
He and waitress Bristy Walls told about five patrons to get out, someone called 911, and "the only thing I could think of was to grab the cash in the till," said Chambers, who recently was granted a beer license by the Red Bank Board of Commissioners.
Chambers lost his cell phone and car keys in the fire, but he was "just happy that everyone made it out safe.
"We'll be back sooner or later," he said. "Just another bump in the road."
Contact Chris Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6610.