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A fire erupted in the kitchen at Hill Diner Monday evening. Manager Leanne Nichols knew that crewmembers from Fire Station 6 were eating in the restaurant at the time and rushed to their table for help as the fire grew out of control.
“She realized that our kitchen fire extinguisher wasn’t stopping the fire and remembered that we had firefighters eating in the dining room,” owner Denise Lane said during an interview at the restaurant this morning.
Lane credits the fast action of the firefighters with saving Hill Diner from becoming a total loss from the fire she said started in the massive stove.
“They immediately took over and had everyone evacuate from the restaurant and kept the fire from reaching into the attic where it would have spread rapidly throughout the building,” she said.
Los Alamos Fire Department and county officials gathered with Lane at the diner this morning. Architect Steven G. Shaw already has designed a fireproof wall for Lane that will run behind the stove and up through the attic to the bottom of the roof deck, dividing the kitchen from the dining room.
“I’ve run the idea passed the fire marshal, the fire chief, the building official and the building inspector and they’re all good with it,” Shaw said.
There was a fire two years ago in the kitchen in a different location and Lane said she wants to make sure everything is done to minimize future risks.
“I want to know how to do this right,” she said.
The Hill Diner was an Army barracks during the Manhattan era. The new fireproof wall will meet current day code, Shaw said.
Lane praised the quick response form the county and fire department this morning saying that they are doing everything possible to help her get back in business.
“Everyday we are closed costs $5,000,” Lane said. “This is our busiest time of year and my concern is that we had to cancel 40 reservations this morning and all of our kids take this time to earn their Christmas money. My goal is to open the restaurant for business on Thursday.”
Hill Diner employs 42 people, she said.
Shamrock Foods is sending up a refrigerated truck to the Hill Diner parking lot to keep food cold until the restaurant is operational.
“This is what is so great about living in a small town – everyone is so supportive,” Lane said. “At 8 this morning, everyone was here from the county building official to the building inspector to the fire officials, my architect, everyone is here to help and I can’t thank them enough.”
Damage estimates are unknown at this time. No injuries occurred in the fire, which is the third to occur at the diner, according to Deputy Fire Chief Patrick Sleik. He indicated that a further investigation would be conducted to determine the cause of this fire.
Lane has owned the restaurant, known for its home cooking and rustic décor, since it opened in 1986. Lori Novak co-owned the diner for a brief period but moved away last August, Lane said.
Hill Diner won the New Mexico Restaurant Association’s award for Restaurateur of the Year in 2008.