Covering Elmore County: Grease Fire Damages, Closes Millbrook Barbecue Restaurant

A longtime Millbrook favorite is out of business, at least, temporarily.

The Smokehouse barbecue fell victim to fire about 2:30 Tuesday afternoon.

It's a story filled with irony, because firemen say they've worried about this exact scenario for years.

But that's not all.

One man who works with fire in the restaurant escaped injury but only after uncontrolled flames scorched him.

And in the midst of the following chaos, some competitors are helping out.

It's no run of the mill fire for many of Millbrook's firemen.   There's a personal connection to the Smokehouse, because they eat there often.

Chief Larry Brown and his men rushed to the restaurant just down from the street from their station and got there maybe two minutes after it started.

Brown says every time he's eaten at the wood frame building, a nagging thought occurred.

"We always look around and say, man, if this thing catches on fire it's gonna be gone," he said.

Smokehouse owner Laura McCloud and cook Dallas Venable were cleaning a grease trap and started refilling a fryer when the fire started.

"They went to plug the fryer back in the wall and for some reason, something happened and it just blew up," server Holly Prevatte said

"It wasn't like a backdraft," said General Manager Donna Savage. "But just a whoosh of fire."

Fortunately, the diner was on the verge of closing and no customers were inside.

But the flames spread quickly, filling the kitchen area, smoke billowing outside. It took firefighters just a few minutes to extinguish everything but by then the cooking area was finished.

"In a restaurant, the kitchen's everything," said Chief Brown.

The dining area and upstairs office took heavy smoke damage but they are repairable.

Most striking is that the Smokehouse may continue operations anyway, at least when it comes to catering.

"We've got a lot, a lot of support," said Donna Savage.  "We've got a lot of other restaurant owners offering us support, like if we need a kitchen to use, or freezer, or a cooler."

But no one expects the longtime favorite back at full strength anytime soon.

Fire Chief Larry Brown says cook Dallas Venable is probably the luckiest person to escape the fire.

Venable's pants leg ignited with cooking oil when the grease trap exploded. He was able to extinguish it and suffered only a minor singe on his leg.