By Doug Ireland
---- — WINDHAM — The Common Man restaurant was set to reopen last night after a fire yesterday morning caused thousands of dollars in damage.
An employee was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene, but did not require hospitalization. The cause was a malfunctioning electrical strip that ignited a cabinet, according to Warren Dodge, the restaurant’s chief operating officer.
The fire ignited about 11 a.m. when the Range Road restaurant was closed. An alarm system and sprinklers were activated, showering the first floor with water and knocking down the flames, fire Chief Tom McPherson said.
“The sprinkler system held the fire in check,” McPherson said. “They are very fortunate.”
If not for the sprinkler system, the fire could have quickly spread and destroyed the restaurant, he said.
When firefighters arrived, the building was filled with heavy smoke, McPherson said. The restaurant’s only occupant, kitchen manager Kenny Mulligan, was outside. He had been overcome by smoke and was shaken up and vomiting, McPherson said.
Mulligan was working in the kitchen when he smelled smoke. He tried to find where the fire started, but was forced to evacuate. He then phoned for help.
He was treated in an ambulance, but declined to be taken to the hospital. He later drove himself to a doctor’s office.
As he drove way, he declined to comment on the fire.
“I’m fine, but I’m going to my doctor as a precaution,” Mulligan said.
He later returned to help with the cleanup, Dodge said.
Although the fire was under control within minutes, firefighters remained at the scene for at least a couple of hours to overhaul the building and investigate the cause.
As firefighters worked inside, general manager Lisa Saitz anxiously waited outside for the chance to assess the damage. Saitz was at home — an hour away — when she received the call about the fire.
“I got here as soon as I could,” she said.
McPherson said they initially believed the fire started in the basement, but later confirmed it broke out in the first-floor dining room. There was smoke damage on the first and second floors and in the basement. The water damage was mostly on the first floor, McPherson said.
He said the fire’s cause was still being investigated. McPherson estimated there w as about $10,000 in damage.
The Common Man usually opens at 4 p.m. during the week, but wasn’t scheduled to open until at least 6 last night, Dodge said.
The Windham Fire Department received mutual aid from Londonderry, Derry and Salem. Pelham and Hudson provided station coverage. Windham police also responded.
The building, which was once a barn, is assessed at $986,900, according to town tax records.