By Rebecca Croomes
For The News Courier
A discarded cigarette is believed to have sparked the fire that closed Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Athens Thursday night, Fire Chief Tony Kirk said.
Alabama State Fire Marshal Jimmy Collier was called to the scene late Thursday and made the determination, Kirk said Friday.
When Collier arrived, Kirk said he told the investigator his department believed there was a “high probability” a carelessly thrown cigarette butt had ignited rotten wood at the base of the building and traveled deep into the wall of the structure.
Collier agreed to test the theory, and another cigarette was placed on other rotten planks further down from where the fire started.
“Within 5 minutes we had flames,” Kirk said.
No one was injured when the fire broke out Thursday night, and the flames were extinguished within a half hour, Kirk said. The restaurant’s interior sustained smoke damage, but the manager hoped to have everything cleaned and repaired in order to be open by Monday, “if not sooner,” the chief said.
Kirk concluded there was no way to tell who threw the cigarette since the building is located among several other fast-food establishments, hotels and gas stations.
“We feel it was strictly an accidental fire,” he said.