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February 23, 2014

Popular Mexican restaurant grilled

NORMAN — Quick response by a Norman police officer may have saved a life early Saturday morning when a popular local restaurant caught fire.

Deputy Fire Chief Jim Bailey said firefighters were notified of the blaze at 1:18 a.m. when an alarm went off at On the Border Mexican Grill, 3000 William Pereira Drive.

Norman Police Officer Blas Flores was nearby on Ed Noble Parkway. Flores was the first to respond to the west Norman fire and reportedly found smoke coming from the roof and evacuated the building. At least one store manager was on site, finishing out the Friday night business and did not realize the restaurant was burning, according to Bailey.

When firefighters arrived, they found heavy smoke throughout the structure. The business was closed and there were no customers on site and no injuries have been reported.

Firefighters entered and tried to find the seat of the fire, Bailey said, but were driven out by extreme heat.

“The roof had ventilated,” Bailey said.

Once the fire had burned through, bringing in fresh oxygen, the roof collapsed. The restaurant had an attic area between ceiling and room and apparently the fire had gotten into that area, Bailey said. Fire officials don’t know yet if that’s where the fire started.

Norman fire marshals were on the scene all day Saturday and will return today with a crane to remove debris in the roof area that is obstructing the investigation.

“When you have a structure fire, it takes awhile for it to cool down enough for those guys to actually get in there,” Bailey said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but does not appear to be suspicious in nature.

Preliminary damage estimates put the loss at a total of $3 million — $2.5 million worth of damage to the structure and $500,000 in damage to the contents, Bailey said.

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