The Valdosta Daily Times
Sunday evening, while customers were inside having their dinner, the smell of smoke inside the Smok’n Pig caused Manager John Rogers to call 911.
“We couldn’t see anything but we could smell smoke, and decided that we needed to call it in,” Rogers said.
Georgia State Patrol officers were in the restaurant having dinner, and when one of the officers heard the 911 call, Rogers said he approached him and took charge of the situation.
At first, customers whose cars were close to the building were asked to move them, but shortly after, when Lowndes County firefighters began arriving, customers were asked to evacuate.
“Everyone was terrific about it. They got up quietly and left. Everybody understood,” Rogers said.
Smok’n Pig owner Pat O’Neal said the customers who had to leave the restaurant can come back and get a free meal for their trouble. “We still have their tickets, and they just need to go in and talk to John or Ray (Parr) and we’ll take care of them,” he said.
The fire was contained to a corner of the building, and Lowndes County Fire Chief Richard Guyton said they couldn’t see it from the inside.
“We used a thermal imaging camera to find the hot spot, and it was confined to the front corner,” Guyton said. “Now they’re tearing down some of the façade to try and reach it.”
Although smoke could be seen at various times coming from the area, and wood exposed when firefighters cut into the building was heavily charred in places, no flames were visible.
“This is what we call a smoldering fire,” said Guyton, explaining that it could have been caused by a variety of issues. He wasn’t prepared Sunday night to declare a cause of the fire, as firefighters remained on scene long past The Times’ press time.
By 9 p.m., much of the corner of the building had been chain- and hack-sawed away, exposing the inner walls and pipes. Guyton said they were still using the thermal imagers to find hotspots in the wall and would continue working on scene as long as it took.
Manager Ray Parr said the Smok’n Pig will reopen today for lunch, as he was already scheduling crews to come in early this morning to clean up and air the building out. Fortunately, there was little to no damage done on the inside of the building, and other than a corner of the kitchen, business would continue as usual.
Parr and O’Neal thanked emergency responders for their response Sunday night. “When we called, they all came out, and they’ve done a terrific job here,” said Parr.
Guyton said the firefighters were a combination of full-time and volunteer staff from several stations in Lowndes County.