Officials credit sprinklers with saving strip mall

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A fire caused at least $15,000 in damage to a West Des Moines restaurant but a sprinkler system saved more than a dozen other businesses in the same strip mall, officials said.

West Des Moines fire crews responded to House of Hunan, located in a strip mall in the 5900 block of Ashworth Road, around 8 p.m. Sunday, officials said.

A passer-by had called after seeing smoke coming from the restaraunts roof and while firefighters were on their way at least a dozen other people called dispatch after seeing the fire, authorities said.

Firefighters saw little smoke in the restaurant but found smoke and flames in at attic space above the ceiling and in the opening of the pipe leading from the stove hood in the roof, said West Des Moines Fire Marshal Mike Whitsell.

An employee told officials there was some sort of flash fire in the kitchen, which officials believe ignited grease in the flume.

The employee said the sprinklers activated almost immediately and he left the building.

Initial estimates placed the damage at about $15,000 but Whitsell said that could still climb. There was slight water damage to the business on either side of House of Hunan from sprinklers activating there as well but the other tenants of the strip mall were unharmed.

"The attic sprinklers, quite frankly, saved the entire building," Whitsell said. "There are at least 16 businesses in the strip mall. If it wasn't for attic sprinklers, several wouldn't have opened today or for a very long time. They held the fire in check, they did their jobs."

House of Hunan was open when the fire broke out but no patrons were inside. No injuries to employees or firefighters were reported.

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