It's not known when one of the busiest restaurants in Waikiki will reopen after an early morning fire.
Honolulu Fire Department investigators said the fire started in the kitchen of The Cheesecake Factory at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center just before 3:30am Friday.
Fire investigators say the cause of the fire was an accidental gas leak to a deep fat fryer. The cause of the leak is undetermined. A pilot light in the appliance was the source of ignition for the leaking gas.
Damage is estimated at $2,500,000. This includes damage to the restaurant's kitchen, exhaust duct and smoke damage to adjacent businesses in the shopping center.
A restaurant cleaning employee described hearing an explosion and tried putting out the fire with an extinguisher.
But the flames spread quickly through the ventilation system, creating a challenge for firefighters.
“The ducting system is designed to move cooking grease and smoke up to the roof where there’s penetration,” said Capt. Terry Seelig, HFD spokesman.
Shocked employees watched helplessly as crews worked to contain the fire.
“Honestly, it’s like heartbreaking. It’s like our family. This is how we make a living and the fact that we’re probably going to be closed tomorrow is heartbreaking for us,” said Cheesecake Factory employee Natasha Flores.