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Laundry fire puts damper on Shakespeare's Pizza

Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 6:10 p.m. CST; updated 9:47 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 19, 2009
Russ Johnson, a service tech, cleans up drenched supplies at Shakespeare's west location on Feb. 19. The Columbia Fire Department extinguished flames after a dryer caught fire.

This article has been changed to reflect that Kurt Mirtsching is the general manager, not owner, of Shakespeare's Pizza.

COLUMBIA – A  commercial clothes dryer caught fire at Shakespeare's Pizza's west location on Thursday morning and caused an estimated $5,000 in damage, said a Columbia Fire Department public information officer.

At 10:56 a.m. Thursday, five firetrucks and one ambulance responded to a call from Shakespeare's at 3304 Broadway Business Park Court and used thermal-imaging cameras to locate the fire. Once inside, firefighters extinguished the flames, removed a load of charred towels from the dryer and set up electric fans to blow the smoke out of the restaurant. No one was injured.

"It took about 10 minutes to get in there, get the towels out of the dryer and get the fire extinguished," Capt. Eric Hartman said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but foul play is not suspected.

Jason McConnell, the manager on duty, discovered the fire.

"We were getting stuff ready to go for lunch, and we started smelling smoke," McConnell said. "I opened the door, and there was thick black smoke. I could see flames inside the dryer. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, but at that point there was just so much smoke that I didn't try to put it out."

Shakespeare's general manager Kurt Mirtsching said that he has a strong commitment to cooperating with the fire and health departments.

"I could care less about a day's-worth of sales," he said. "I learned a long time ago that cooperation with the health department — from routine inspections to fun little adventures like this – is the way to go. Shortcuts are very shortsighted."

Mirtsching said that any food or supplies that came into contact with the smoke would be thrown away.

"Any pizza boxes that were out, we're going to discard," he said. "Probably not, but they might have some smoke on them; which might not be a health hazard, but it'd be a flavor hazard. We don't want to serve any burnt laundry-flavored pizza."

Shakespeare's reopened around 4:30 p.m. Thursday just in time for dinner, said Mirtsching.


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