MOUNT OLIVE, NJ - (Updated 11:15 a.m.) The Longhorn Steakhouse restaurant in Mount Olive was destroyed this morning by a major fire and an investigation into its cause is underway, said fire officials.
Roxbury firefighters assisted those from Mount Olive and elsewhere in battling the 3-alarm blaze at the 50 International Drive establishment, according to police and fire broadcasts and the Mount Olive fire officials.
An activated fire alarm shortly before midnight alerted Mount Olive firefighters about the incident, they said. Mount Olive police were first to respond.
"Shortly after PD arrived on scene, the officer confirmed a working structure fire, and citywide was dispatched," said Flanders Fire Co. #1 and Rescue Squad on Facebook. "First arriving crews from Flanders and Budd Lake went to work with multiple lines in operation. Heavy fire was found throughout the building above the drop ceiling."
The fire department said crews were evacuated when the restaurant's roof became compromised due to the weight of air conditioning units. "The building was unsafe to re-enter after the fire was extinguished by defensive operations," said the fire department. "An excavator came in to demolish the building and crews extinguished the remaining hot spots."
The fire was being fed by the restaurant's natural gas supply which was eventually shut off, according to monitored radio dispatches.
In battling the blaze, firefighters used three tower ladder trucks and hand lines. There were reports of several firefighters sustaining minor injuries, but these were later disputed by the Budd Lake Fire Department which said "no firefighters or civilians were injured or burned."
"Unfortunately the fire at the LongHorn Steak House could not be brought under control, and the building had to be demolished due to the extensive damage. Incredible efforts were made by the Flanders Fire Department, Budd Lake Fire Department, and the surrounding mutual-aid companies," said the Mount Olive fire marshal on Facebook.
Brittany Baron, communications manager for Darden Restaurants, which owns Longhorn Steakhouse, said the company is working with other Darden restaurants in the area to find jobs for employees of the Mount Olive site.
"We are extremely thankful that the restaurant was closed and no one was inside at the time of the fire," she said. "We want to thank the firefighters and other first responders who quickly responded and extinguished the fire."
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