SAN ANTONIO – The flames and smoke were almost impossible to miss for anyone driving along an East Side highway early Thursday morning.
According to San Antonio firefighters, a fire that started inside the kitchen of a Denny’s restaurant near Interstate 10 and Foster Road quickly spread throughout the entire building.
The huge fireball not only destroyed the restaurant, but the Flying J truck stop and convenience store attached to it.
Truck driver Matt McClellan, who had stopped there for the night, somehow slept through it all.
“I’m parked right there,” he said, pointing to his truck, which was parked about 100 yards from the burning building. “I didn’t hear a thing. I was out like a light.”
McClellan couldn’t believe what he saw when he woke up, dozens of fire trucks surrounding the burned-out shell of a building.
“It’s, like I mean, literally the whole building. I was just there last night,” he said, incredulously.
Firefighters, meanwhile, were there for hours Thursday morning, just trying to quench the furious flames that they found when they arrived shortly after 5 a.m.
“(They) went in to extinguish the fire. The fire got up in the hood system, got up in the attic and went through the roof,” said Fire Chief Charles Hood, describing how quickly it spread.
He said the first crews who arrived called for backup. At one point, there were more than a dozen fire crews and apparatus at the scene.
Hood says one truck apparently got too close to the fire and was damaged.
“Once we put the supply lines in, we can’t move those trucks. The winds changed on us,” Hood said.
The fire also burned dangerously close to fuel lines and a fuel shut off valve, he said.
At the time when it broke out, Hood said, there were more than 50 big rigs parked at the truck stop.
Some of those temporarily were in the danger zone. It appeared some of them were left covered in soot from the smoke.
Hood said no one was injured by the fire.
Pilot, the parent company for Flying J, later issued the following statement:
“We are relieved to report that all of our Team Members and Guests have been accounted for and are safe after the fire that occurred at our Flying J travel center in San Antonio, Texas. We thank the San Antonio Fire Department and First Responders for their quick response and action to control the fire. We are cooperating with the local officials as they investigate the cause, and we ask you to direct any inquiries to the proper authorities.
The safety of our Team Members and Guests is our top priority. We are grateful to our Team Members and responders at the scene who helped ensure everyone on property was able to evacuate the building safely. We are providing support resources to our valued Team Members and will make jobs available to them at nearby travel centers while we work to restore this location.”
A spokesperson for Denny’s sent KSAT the following statement:
“Denny’s is very pleased to know that there were no injuries during the fire that took place at the Flying J Travel Center. Furthermore, we are grateful that our restaurant at this location was closed at the time, and no employees or guests were on the premises. The safety and wellbeing of our guests and team members is always our top priority. We appreciate the San Antonio Fire Department and First Responders for their tireless efforts to control the fire and are working with them to support their investigation in any way we can. In the meantime, we will be providing positions at other Denny’s locations in the San Antonio area to ensure none of our team members are without employment during this time.”