The future of the Golden Corral restaurant in Fort Oglethorpe is uncertain after being engulfed in fire Wednesday morning.
Firefighters responding to a 911 call around 12:10 a.m. found flames rising from the east side of the building, a closed-off part of the restaurant where groups sometimes gather in privacy, Fort Oglethorpe Fire Chief Bruce Ballew said. He said firefighters extinguished flames until about 5 a.m.
Ballew said most of the restaurant's dining area burned down and other parts of the building were probably a "total loss" because of damage from flames, smoke and water.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and Ballew said a state fire marshal had been on the scene since Wednesday morning. Nobody was in the building when reports of the fire emerged, Ballew said.
The Golden Corral, located at 760 Battlefield Parkway, could hold about 250 diners, according to a 2005 Times Free Press story. At the time, the restaurant's owners were celebrating an expansion from 5,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet — a testament to how popular the buffet was in Fort Oglethorpe.
The owner, Jerry Terrette, told the Times Free Press at the time that he had been operating the restaurant since the 1980s. His wife, son and daughter helped run the operation.
Terrette could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Ballew said, in addition to members of the Fort Oglethorpe Fire Department, responders came from the Catoosa County Fire Department, Georgia Department of Corrections Fire Services, the Walker County Fire Department, and mutual aid units from Collegedale, East Ridge, Rossville, Walker County and Whitfield County. Mutual aid units are firefighters who help surrounding areas at no charge.
Ballew said one firefighter was injured Wednesday morning. While a group battled the flames from the inside, he said, the roof began to collapse. The firefighters retreated from the building, but one man slipped on the ground, injuring his foot.
"He was transported and released from the hospital," Ballew said.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@times freepress.com or at 423-757-6476.map