Fire broke out shortly after noon Tuesday, Oct. 8, in the upper level of the Skillet Restaurant in Brainerd, reportedly sparked during rooftop repairs.

The Brainerd Fire Department received notification of a fire at the restaurant, 123 Washington St., and upon arrival, found the restaurant with smoke billowing from virtually every window, vent and opening. In a matter of minutes, flames could be seen rising from the north end of the restaurant’s roof. Firefighters could be seen entering the structure, dousing the flames and dismantling damaged portions of the roof and insulation.

Tom Zelinske, who moved into the upstairs apartment Monday, was working on homework Tuesday when he spotted smoke rising from the vents in his room, he said.

“All I saw was smoke and my fire alarms went off,” Zelinske said with a shrug. “I got out. It came big. It smelled like burning plastic. My place was filled by the time I walked from my room to the door. I thought it was my stove, that I accidentally turned it on or something.”

Brainerd firefighters enter the back door of the Skillet Restaurant Tuesday, Oct. 8, after a fire started on the roof. The blaze was extinguished and there were no injuries reported. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Brainerd firefighters enter the back door of the Skillet Restaurant Tuesday, Oct. 8, after a fire started on the roof. The blaze was extinguished and there were no injuries reported. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Walking outside, Zelinske said he found owner Ed Mattson on his phone and emergency responders rolling into the scene. He noted the smoke must have moved quickly through the restaurant, as patrons were already gathered in the street.

Brainerd Fire Chief Tim Holmes confirmed initial reports indicating workers were repairing a drain opening on the roof using a torch and may have inadvertently sparked the fire with a piece of wood decking. The flames were quickly fueled by strong wind gusts.

From there, it spread along the roof and into the building structure -- though, Holmes noted, it was difficult to say later Tuesday afternoon just how extensive the fire damage is, while water and especially smoke damage occurred throughout the interior of the restaurant.

“It just got a little too hot for what he was doing,” Holmes said of the repair crew. “I don’t know that it moved that quickly, I just think that it got hot and there was good airflow.”

Mattson had just returned home from the Minnesota Twins game in Minneapolis when he came upon smoke pluming out of his restaurant. In the end, he expressed thanks that the fire was contained and everything sorted out quickly.

“Tragic, you know. Glad they got the fire out right away,” Mattson said. “Hopefully, we can salvage what we can.”

There were no reported injuries from the fire. Assisting firefighters at the scene were officers of the Brainerd Police Department and North Memorial Ambulance.