PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Investigators are being critical of how long it took the owner of Winghart’s to call officials about the fire at the restaurant.
Winghart’s restaurant owner Shiv Bandhu was on his way to work last Thursday when his employees called and said they smelling something.
“They just thought it was something not important. ‘Hey, I think something’s wrong sort of deal.’ I said, ‘Is it bad, is it a lot?’ And they said, ‘No, I just smell something, I don’t know what it is,’” Bandhu said.
He told his employees he’d be there shortly. A four-alarm fire later ripped through the restaurant.
Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Chief Darryl Jones said that was the wrong reaction.
“You need to call us right away so we can get ahead of this thing cause the longer you wait for, the more difficult it’s going to be,” Jones said.
Bandhu said the employees didn’t call 911 because they didn’t see anything.
“Plus, we didn’t want to create a whole big thing and it was a 15-minute delay,” Bandhu said. “I got here at 11:15 and it was 11:45, 11:40 that 911 was called.”
The log at Pittsburgh 911 indicates the call came in at 11:49, 34 minutes after Bandhu arrived at his restaurant.
Chief Jones said those were 34 critical minutes.
“Fire can expand and grow exponentially within a minute or a couple of minutes,” Jones said.
Bandhu’s said he went up to the roof and saw smoke but no fire.
“It was inside somewhere,” Bandhu said. “Nobody could see or guess anything. It was one of those things you don’t know and you’re hoping for the best.”
Chief Jones said that’s exactly why the call to officials should have been made.
“We use thermal imaging cameras,” Jones said. “If he would have called us and stated that he sees smoke, our crews would have gone in used the thermal imaging and detected the heat source, pulled those roofs and extinguished the fire maybe before all the damage he has now.”
Bandhu’s inspector tells him the delay did not worsen the situation.
Chief Jones said quite the contrary
“This event here is proof of what can happen when you don’t call.”
Bandhu said he’s been told a rooftop heating unit was the source of the fire.
He said on Monday it will probably be six months before the restaurant reopens.