Three Good Samaritans helped evacuate part of a local shopping center and put out a fire in a restaurant at a shopping center along 25th Street.

Columbus firefighters were called at 3 p.m. Monday  to the Tasty Express at 1804 25th St. about a fire by someone who said flames were visible inside the restaurant and that an evacuation of the strip mall was underway, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

When police and firefighters arrived moments later, they found the fire was out. Haley Jewell and Madison Woodard were sitting at their desks at Columbus Optical, 2475 Cottage Ave, when Jewell noticed black smoke coming from the roof of Tasty Express, Wilson said.

Jewell told firefighters she saw flames inside the restaurant, some visible above the roof. Jewll called 911 while Woodard left the office, ran across the street to the strip mall and started alerting other businesses there about the fire, Wilson said.

Woodard went into Pickers Paradise, 1810 25th St., and warned employees and customers about the fire. She then attempted to check on another store at 1800 25th St., but it was closed. She then went to the Pink and White Nails facility at 1774 25th St., and retrieved a fire extinguisher and went to the Tasty Express to seek if she could assist in putting out the fire, Wilson said.

Pickers Paradise Owner Dale Burton was already in the restaurant with a fire extinguisher and both used the devices in the area of the restaurant’s cooking grill, putting out the flames, Wilson said. They were not injured.

Firefighters inspected the scene and determined the fire was confined to the cooking grill and the exhaust hood system. Firefighters also inspected roof ventilation ducts using a thermal imaging camera inside and outside the building before turning the property back over to the owners.

Cause of the fire was determined to be accidental, confined to the restaurant’s commercial food service exhaust hood system, Wilson said. The system is equipped with a fire suppression system, but it did not activate, Wilson said.

The fire suppression system also had a manual discharge device that was not activated by employees, said Capt. Matt Noblitt, fire department inspector. The restaurant will remain closed until the Bartholomew County Health Department does an inspection, Noblitt said.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.