SYCAMORE – Sanethra Currasco was just finishing her shift as a manager at Wendy's on Friday afternoon, but her day was just beginning.
"I was trying to clock out when someone yelled there was smoke, and we all ran outside," said Currasco, who was one of five employees in the chain restaurant at 439 E. State St., right before it was engulfed in fire and smoke, leaving the building charred and gutted. No injuries were reported.
About 3:50 p.m., firefighters from the Sycamore Fire Department responded to a call of heavy smoke in the building, Sycamore Fire Chief Peter Polarek said.
"Initial crews reported like smoke coming from the roof, around the air conditioning unit," he said.
Polarek said an investigation by the fire department and the restaurant's insurer would begin searching for the cause of the blaze and how much damage it caused.
"We have no outward indication that it's suspicious, but we haven't started an investigation," Polarek said.
The fire spread horizontally, first to across the roof, and then into the dining area, Polarek said. Flames could be seen shooting through the rooftop.
There were no customers in the restaurant at the time of the fire, Currasco said.
Firefighters used a ladder truck to douse the flames from above and smashed dining-room windows to hit the flames from the ground. The fire was mostly out before 7 p.m., Polarek said.
Although it isn't attached, the Resource Bank building next door was evacuated as a precaution.
At least five other fire departments – Malta, Kirkland, DeKalb, Genoa-Kingston and Cortland – responded. With air temperatures hovering about zero, emergency crews took turns warming up and getting snacks in the Family Dollar in the adjacent shopping center.
As has been the case with reported fires this week, the bitter cold temperatures caused problems for firefighters, such as busted valves.
"The guys did a great job, considering the conditions," Polarek said.
Parts of State Street were blocked off near the restaurant, and the smoke from the blaze could be seen from miles away.
Bob Vaughn of Sycamore saw the fire while picking up his sister, and stopped to watch the scene. His car was one of many parked in the shopping center parking lot whose drivers had stopped see what was happening.
"The flames were coming out pretty good," Vaughn said.
The owner of the restaurant arrived on scene shortly after the fire was reported, but declined to comment because he had no information at the time.
The restaurant had been the scene of one previous fire-related incident. It was closed for several days in May 2011 after a fire started in a deep fryer.