WILLMAR — A kitchen fire Thursday morning damaged one of Willmar’s most popular restaurants, the Panda Garden Buffet.
No one was injured, but the fire damaged the restaurant’s kitchen as well as extensive smoke damage throughout the building, according to Willmar Fire Chief Frank Hanson. The chief reported that there was minor smoke damage to nearby businesses in the Plaza One shopping center on South First Street.
According to information from the fire department, Willmar firefighters responded at 10:28 a.m. Thursday to a report of an extractor fan fire at the Panda Garden Buffet. They learned on the way that there was no more electricity in the restaurant.
The restaurant owners told arriving firefighters that there was a fire and they did not know if it was out. The chief said three employees were kicked out of the building. The chief also asked for help from neighboring departments to provide more manpower.
Firefighters remained at the scene until around 3:45 p.m. Thursday.
It was determined to be a cooking fire, which was contained in the kitchen by the exhaust hood sprinkler system. At its peak, flames were visible around the roof exhaust system.
The Willmar Fire Department was assisted by Willmar CentraCare Emergency Medical Services; the Blomkest, Kandiyohi, Spicer and New London fire departments; as well as Kandiyohi County Rescue Team, Willmar Police Department, Willmar Public Works, Willmar Municipal Utilities, and Minnesota State Fire Division.