Cause of Myrtle Beach area restaurant fire remains under investigation

troot@thesunnews.comFebruary 5, 2014 

The cause of a restaurant fire that last week destroyed a Myrtle Beach area restaurant and forced the closure of a portion of Kings Highway for several hours remains under investigation, according to Horry County Fire Rescue officials.

Fire investigators continue to work on determining what started Friday’s blaze at the New China Buffet, according to Brian VanAernem, an Horry County Fire Rescue battalion chief.

A fire inspection report showed that the business was last inspected early in 2012, according to Horry County code enforcement records. During a routine inspection in January that year, officials found violations related to the address and occupancy placards not being posted, working emergency lighting and open electrical wiring on light poles in the parking lot.

Those violations were corrected, according to a follow-up inspection on Feb. 4, 2012.

The fire Friday was reported at about 2:30 a.m. Friday by someone passing by the restaurant at 9601 N. Kings Highway near Lake Arrowhead Road.

Firefighters determined it was a three-alarm blaze because of the size of the building and the manpower and resources that were needed to battle it.

Crews got the blaze under control about 40 minutes after they arrived, officials said at the time of the incident.

Kings Highway in front of the restaurant was closed until about 8 a.m. later that day.

No one was hurt during the fire. In addition to Horry County firefighters, crews from North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach fire departments assisted.

At the time of the blaze, New China Buffet owner Mandy Zheng said she was unsure about her plans to rebuild or reopen elsewhere.

She had operated the business for about five years and employed eight people.

The last major fire along Restaurant Row occurred in February 2012 when the Seafare Restaurant burned to the ground, about five months after closing its doors.

Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Fred Crosby said there was some damage to the Giant Crab because the restaurant’s windows cracked in the heat from nearby flames.

No one was at the Giant Crab at the time of the fire. Its sign noted the business was closed for the season.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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