Elvira Manriquez wanted to give her staff Thanksgiving off with their families. So the 80-year-old Apache Junction woman decided to switch her restaurant's weekly closed day from Tuesday to Thursday.
Now, she’s not sure she’ll be able to open her restaurant again.
Elvira's Mexican Restaurant, 1520 W. Apache Trail, was extensively damaged Tuesday when a grease fire erupted about an hour before the restaurant was to open at 11 a.m. A lone cook was making tortilla chips at the time, but she safely left the restaurant, which has been a fixture in Apache Junction for nearly 39 years.
Manriquez was at home when a friend who lives near the restaurant called her.
"When I got here, fire was coming out of the corner," Manriquez said.
The cook was so shaken she couldn't get the fire extinguisher to work, Manriquez said. She did call 911, however, and escaped uninjured.
Apache Junction Fire Department inspector Tim O'Brien said he saw the flames as he drove by the restaurant.
"She was deep-frying tortilla chips, and the grease overflowed and ignited," O'Brien said. "It got behind the stove and climbed up the wall."
Apache Junction Fire Battalion Chief Dave Montgomery said it took firefighters from Apache Junction and Mesa less than 20 minutes to get the blaze under control. They kept the fire contained to the kitchen, food preparation and storage area.
Manriquez said it's too early to tell if she'll repair the restaurant.