Just before 1 a.m. Monday morning, Gulfportian Mark Gildauskis smelled smoke. He looked outside and saw smoke coming from the exhaust stack on George’s Grill on Newton and 49th. At the same time, his neighbor Cynthia Conley noticed smoke as well.
“The lights were off and the chairs were stacked on the tables so I concluded they weren't open, and the thick smoke was noticeable through the windows from my place,” Mr. Gildauskis said.
“The whole inside was filled with smoke; I knew there shouldn’t have been no smoke in there,” Ms. Conley said. Neither neighbor realized anyone else noticed the smoke, called 911.
Gulfport firefighters arrived on scene by 1 a.m. and determined the smoke had not yet led to fire. They opened the doors and ventilated the restaurant; the owners arrived shortly thereafter.
Gulfport Fire Chief Jim Marenkovic said an overflowing grease vat caused “heavy smoke” but “didn’t generate enough heat to make the hood system discharge. There wasn’t enough heat generated to put the fire out.”
“Somebody left the fryer on,” owner George Gomillion said. Mr. Gomillion passed his fire inspection on May 29, which included a hood inspection. If Ms. Conley and Mr. Gildauskis had not noticed the smoke, the hood system would have, according to Chief Marenkovic, triggered and controlled the blaze.
Monday morning, Mr. Gomillion and his staff closed for the day to clean up after the morning’s incident. He told the Gabber he would reopen Tuesday.
“We’re just going to close today, because we’re cleaning up. It was mostly smoke, no flames,” Mr. Gomillion said. “There’s no smoke damage or anything.”
Fire Chief Marenkovic praised Mr. Gildauskis and Ms. Conley.
“I’m sure [they] prevented [something worse],” he said.
“Big props goes out to them,” Mr. Gomillion said of the twosome Monday morning. “They saved the day.”