NEWBURYPORT — A brief kitchen fire led to the immediate evacuation of Andaman Thai Restaurant on Water Street Saturday evening, forcing dozens of patrons outside at the height of the dinner hour.
Newburyport fire Lt. Stephen Hamilton said a gas valve handle on a main stove broke off around 6:15 p.m., which sent gas into the kitchen before it briefly ignited.
"It was like a blowtorch coming out," Hamilton said.
Kitchen staff managed to put out the fire using extinguishers, but gas continued to fill the kitchen. Firefighters were at the scene for about 30 minutes clearing the restaurant of gas and then observing as gas service was shut off to the building.
Salisbury resident Patty DiTullio said she and her friends had just been served dinner when a restaurant employee stormed into the dining room and ordered people out immediately. Flames could be seen from the dining room and a loud bang or pop was heard by kitchen staff, DiTullio said.
"It was very confusing, because no alarm was sounded," DiTullio said. "Everyone quickly filed out, but we weren't sure at first what was going on."
DiTullio said when she and others made it outside to the rear parking lot, there was a strong smell of natural gas.
Hamilton said the restaurant would likely reopen today upon clearance from the city's health inspector.