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Investigators: Fire at Streetsboro's Happy Moose was accidental

Total damages from the fire are estimated in excess of $250,000.
Credit: Streetsboro Fire Department/Facebook

STREETSBORO, Ohio — Investigators have determined that the fire that broke out at Happy Moose restaurant in Streetsboro last week was accidental in nature. 

Around 10:30 a.m. on January 21, firefighters were dispatched to Happy Moose, located at 9436 State Route 14, for a commercial fire alarm. Shortly after, the Happy Moose owner reported a smell of "something burning" and a fire sprinkler being activated, however no flames could be seen.

At the scene, fire officials found heavy smoke in the kitchen and multiple sprinklers being activated. Using a thermal imaging camera, crews focused their attention to an area behind the grill. A fire was discovered behind the wall with charring up to the ceiling and intent to spread. The fire was contained to the immediate area, with the rest of the restaurant seeing heavy smoke and water damage. Total damages were estimated in excess of $250,000. 

During the follow-up investigation, construction crews on site helped to systematically remove sections of wall in the kitchen. Investigators were able to see the full scope of damage in the wall, and examine fire patterns. Potential sources of ignition, including nearby natural gas and electric lines, were eliminated as possible causes.

Investigators say the cause of the fire is a result of thermal decomposition of non-fire rated plywood in the wall, an area with limited air flow, in close proximity to a flat top grill. This process is also known as pyrolysis. Over time, it is believed that heat from the grill caused the wood to dry out and decompose. On the morning of the fire, heat from the flat top grill caused the plywood to further decompose to a point where it was easily combusted, causing a fire in between the wall within the kitchen area. 

Once the fire ignited, it traveled up and along an area between two metal wall studs. As the fire got into an open area under the roof line, it went toward an operating HVAC unit which was the fires' source for more oxygen. Streetsboro fire officials say at least 2 fire sprinkler heads activated due to the high temperatures of the fire. The fire alarm system also activated due to the water flow and smoke getting into the HVAC system.

According to Streetsboro Fire Capt. Kevin Grimm, the findings of the department were confirmed by an independent fire investigators hired by Happy Moose's insurance company. 

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