ROXBURY, N.J. - A Chinese restaurant in Kenvil that sustained damage from an Aug. 26 fire was inspected earlier this year and found to be in compliance with fire codes, according to a township official.
Roxbury Fire Official Michael Pellek said the China King restaurant on Route 46 was found to have "some violations" during an initial inspection in January, but quickly corrected the infractions. "They were all corrected and we signed-off on them on April 15," he said. "Any place we go, there's going to be some infractions."
Pellek was out of town Friday night when the fire broke out in China King, so an analysis of the incident's cause was left in the hands of Mount Olive Fire Inspector Colin Baker. He said today he found no sign of arson.
"We did our investigation shortly after the fire was done," Baker said. "I believe it was accidental in nature. It was probably caused by some combustibles being too close to a heat source."
That heat source was a overhead "salamander" style, gas grill at the end of China King's cooking line. Adjacent to the grill was a shelf "where they stored chopsticks and other combustible items," Baker said. He determined something left on the shelf somehow ignited after the restaurant was closed and the staff had left.
China King owner Leo Weng said a pilot light flame might have been the culprit.
Baker said the restaurant had automatic fire suppression equipment but it wasn't aimed at the elevated grill. "The Fire suppression covers their cooktop stuff," he said. "This was on the far end of it."
Although the fire might have activated the equipment, the extinguishers wouldn't have stopped the blaze because the flames were higher than the cooktop, Baker explained.
He said firefighters responded quickly after the flames were reported. Although there was smoke and water damage to some other stores in the strip mall, the fast response by the fire crews prevented any significant structural damage, Baker said.