FIREFIGHTERS say sprinklers potentially saved a fire which broke out in a Gunwharf Quays restaurant from turning into a disaster.
Scores of workers and shoppers were evacuated from the complex for almost two hours yesterday morning as 25 firefighters tackled the blaze at the Chinese buffet restaurant, Water Margin.
The fire broke out just after 9am when a staff member accidentally left a wok on the heat.
Workers desperately tried to put it out but the flames spread to the roof of the restaurant, causing substantial damage.
The chief fire officer in charge of the incident says the blaze could have been a lot worse had a sprinkler system not kicked in.
Incident commander Glenn Bowyer said: ‘The fire had gone through the extraction system on to the roof.
‘It was a difficult fire to get to so we had to tackle it from the roof.
‘We needed to evacuate the site because the fire could have potentially spread along the roof.
‘There was a potential that it could have been worse.
‘What was good was the sprinklers, they helped control the fire and minimised damage.’
John Waites, chairman of Water Margin Portsmouth Ltd, which runs the restaurant, said: ‘We had three to four workers inside preparing the food.
‘One of them left oil in a wok over a flame and it caught fire.
‘We haven’t had access to our CCTV yet, so can’t tell for sure.
‘The workers tried to put it out themselves, but couldn’t.
‘Then the sprinklers came on and they called 999.
‘One of the workers needed treatment at the walk-in centre for minor burns to his hand.
‘The main damage has been to the ducting and we’re finding out how much it will cost to repair.’
The restaurant is now likely to be closed for the rest of the week.
Three fire crews from Southsea, one from Cosham and one from Wickham were called to deal with the incident after several people alerted the emergency services to the smoke billowing out of the building.
Simon Wildgust, operations manager at Spinnaker Tower, said: ‘I saw plumes of smoke coming out and went up the tower and saw there was a fire in the roof of the Water Margin.
‘This was one of the most significant fires I have since I’ve worked here.’
Crockery shop Denby & Le Creuset, which is below the restaurant, remained shut yesterday as it suffered water damage.
A fire investigation is now under way.