Culpeper Mexican restaurant destroyed in early morning kitchen fire | Latest news


No one was injured in a large fire early Wednesday that started in the commercial kitchen of a Mexican restaurant on Willis Lane in the town of Culpeper.

Eight fire and rescue teams responded with police when first reported to the E911 dispatcher at 1.05am in the area near several hotels.

The old Golden Corral building at 891 Willis Lane near 29 Bypass was ablaze and a total loss in a fire that started in the kitchen, possibly a grease fire, authorities said.

Culpeper County Volunteer Fire Co. 1 Deputy Chief Junior Perryman said the E911 call came as a fire in the back of the building was already going through the roof.

Due to the orientation of the former buffet restaurant built in the 1980s at the freeway interchange, fire crews could not bring their trucks behind the building to attack the fire head-on.

Instead, firefighters were hand laying the pipes to reach the kitchen where the fire had started, Perryman said.

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“It was big,” he said of the fire. “With the open ceiling concept, it ran the full length inside.”

Crews attacked the fire from above with aerial trucks and ladders and firefighters inside the restaurant were aware of the potential collapse of the ceiling and skylights.

It took a few hours to substantially extinguish the fire, Perryman said. Crews were there all night and late into the morning to get it out completely.

Not being able to reach the rear meant a lot more water had to be used, Perryman said. At one point, the city was asked to increase water pressure in the area to provide enough to fight the fire, the deputy chief said.

The water immediately turned to ice on the exterior surfaces, creating a slippery scene.

Fortunately, the fire was mostly contained within the structure, there were no high winds, and the smoke was rising directly instead of toward nearby hotels, Perryman said.

“Everyone got away with it unscathed,” he said.

Co. 1 was the first response to receive assistance from two units of career EMS personnel from Culpeper County Fire & Rescue, Rapidan VFD, Brandy Station VFD, Warrenton Volunteer Fire Tower 11-01, Reva Co. 16, Salem Co 8, Little Fork Co. 9 and Culpeper Police Department.

Culpeper County Career Units provided EMS rehabilitation to firefighters and assisted with fire suppression, Culpeper County Emergency Services Director Bill Ooten said of his staff who received cross-training to do both.

Cavalier Real Estate Investments, based in Culpeper, is listed as the owner of the circa 1985 building which for years housed the popular Golden Corral buffet.

According to the online tax database, the building was purchased in 2020 for $934,000.

The restaurant opened in 2014 as the second location for Pancho Villa Mexican in the city, its original location on South Main Street.

Currently the site operated as Don Eladio’s Cantina, with a second location in King George.

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