Popular Beaufort restaurant damaged by early morning fire, gas line explosion averted

By John Williams

Flames ripped through the Beaufort restaurant La Nopalera early Tuesday morning and investigators suspect electrical wiring failure may have started the blaze.

The fire apparently started about 2:30 a.m. in a shed behind the main restaurant building on Ribaut Road, but quickly spread to the eves and roof of the restaurant, said Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron. When firefighters arrived minutes after the call, they found flames climbing 30 feet.

Very quickly, the fire melted and ignited a nearby commercial gas meter, creating a dangerous potential for explosion.

“Firefighters did an outstanding job controlling the burning natural gas line until SCE&G crews could isolate the gas,” Negron said. “The firefighters were able to keep the gas-fed fire from running through the entire building.”

No one was in the structure at the time of the fire and no one was hurt. The main restaurant structure doesn’t appear to have any major structural damage, Negron said, though some roof rafters and decking will have to be replaced. Fortunately for the owners, he said, there is limited water or smoke damage to the main building.  The shed and its contents were consumed by the fire.

More than 30 firefighters helped battle the blaze, including four fire engines, two squads and one tower/ladder truck. Beaufort/Port Royal Fire fighters were assisted by personnel from Beaufort County EMS, the Burton Fire District, Marine Corps Parris Island Fire Department and the Beaufort County Fire Scene Investigation Team.

Although fire investigators continue to comb through the scene, it appears the fire was accidental and electrical wiring failure may have sparked the blaze.

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