The caught fire at Thursday after an apparent natural gas explosion in the kitchen.
About four customers and six employees were inside the restaurant when the explosion happened, all of whom made it out safely.
“Employees reported smelling natural gas moments before the explosion,” said Encinitas Fire Marshal Bob Scott. “One customer said the explosion was so loud, he thought a car had driven into the building."
About 50 firefighters from Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad, Solana Beach Vista, and San Marcos responded to the three-alarm fire. Crews found the building charged with smoke and initially attempted to fight the blaze from the rooftop, but after seeing that it was collapsing in some areas, they retreated.
It took crews about an hour to put the brunt of the blaze out, and about another hour to control the rest of the fire. Dozens of neighbors watched as they battled the flames, many of them snapping photos and shooting video.
The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation, though Scott said the culprit was most likely one of the natural gas lines used for the cooking appliances.
“Once the [McDonald’s] employees realized this was a fire they couldn’t handle, they got everyone out of the restaurant safely and called 911 immediately,” Scott said. “They followed the right procedure, and that speaks volumes of them.”
The entire interior of the restaurant was burned and the building is collapsed in some areas. Scott said the structure will most likely be deemed a total loss—with about $500,000 to $700,000 in damages, at a minimum. Some of the neighboring businesses suffered smoke and heat damage, but no fire damage.
“Luckily the children's play area did not catch fire. It could have been a lot worse if all that plastic caught fire,” Scott said.
There were no serious injuries resulting from the fire. One employee did cut his finger during the commotion of the fire, but he declined any medical attention.