LUMBERTON — Management of the two Hardee’s restaurants in Robeson County that experienced fires in recent weeks is doing what it can to make sure the employees are not out of work.
BLD Brands, which manages the St. Pauls and Pembroke Hardee’s locations, has reassigned workers to neighboring Hardee’s restaurants, said Andy Gale, company CEO and chief financial officer.
“We have made every accommodation to relocate our employees to neighboring stores, as it’s practical,” Gale said.
BLD Brands, headquartered in California, is an investment and operations enterprise that operates multi-unit franchises. BLD acquired 50 Hardee’s restaurants in South Carolina and North Carolina in June 2015.
The Hardee’s located at at 507 W. Broad St. in St. Pauls caught fire on Christmas Day. The Pembroke Hardee’s, located at 317 W. Third St., caught fire twice in one day on Friday, and burned to the ground.
The company is renovating the St. Pauls location and expects to reopen it in about two months, Gale said.
“We are actively working to open to serve our loyal customers,” Gale said. “We want the store open as quickly as possible.”
Gale would not comment about the Pembroke location’s reopening or the cause of the fire.
“We are also doing an internal investigation,” Gale said.
The St. Pauls and Big Marsh Fire departments responded to a call about a structure fire on West Broad Street in St. Pauls about 7 a.m. Christmas Day, according to the fire report. Five fire trucks and 19 firefighters arrived within 10 minutes.
Heat from a deep fat fryer caused a kitchen fire, according to the report, and it was contained to that area.
Firefighters did not find anything suspicious about the fire, therefore no additional investigation is needed, Johnathan Inman, a St. Pauls firefighter, said Wednesday.
“I assume they will start selling cheeseburgers pretty soon,” Inman said.
Nothing will be sold at the restaurants until they get Robeson County Health Department clearance. The Health Department conducts an investigation whenever there is a fire at a business where food and beverages are consumed by the public.
Lori Morrison, a county Environmental Health specialist, was assessing damages to the Pembroke restaurant on Friday.
The Health Department’s investigation includes watching cleanup operations and making sure the fast food restaurant has been cleaned properly before it is allowed to reopen, she said.
“We are here to make sure they are not trying to open prematurely, that they are not trying to re-serve or continue to operate,” Morrison said. “We want to make sure that the food is wholesome, unadulterated, and not contaminated by any of the fire suppressant systems contaminants or anything like that.”
All restaurants are responsible to clean up after a fire, she said. They may outsource it to another company as long as there is a detailed, documented plan in place.
“We need to know what they plan on doing, how they are going to clean it up, what chemicals they are going to use to clean it up,” Morrison said. “We do have rules in which food prep surfaces have to be washed, rinsed and sanitized appropriately.”
Environmental Health Specialist Michelle Fanning was assigned to the fire in St. Pauls.
The Health Department will focus on three factors before allowing the Hardee’s location to reopen, she said Wednesday.
“To rebuild they will have to meet building code, fire code and safety code,” Fanning said.
Reach Annick Joseph at 910-416-5165 or via email [email protected] or connect on Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.