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Longhorn pit gets too hot to handle

The pit at Spokane Valley’s popular Longhorn Barbecue overheated and filled the restaurant with smoke during tonight’s dinnertime rush.

More than 100 customers had to evacuate as firefighters sprayed water and detergent to prevent the possible spread of a grease fire.

No one was injured and restaurant owner Randy Ingraham retained hope that the restaurant could reopen in time for the after-church crowd Sunday morning.

“There were two big pigs in the pit and it got too hot,” he said. “It’s a barbecue pit. It happens sometimes.”

He worked alongside his restaurant crew tonight washing down counters, mopping floors, scrubbing equipment and cleaning out the wood-fired pit that’s about 12 feet long and 8 feet wide.

Kevin Miller, fire marshal for the Spokane Valley Fire Department, said emptying the restaurant of more than 100 people was a bit of a challenge. Some customers wouldn’t leave until wait staff returned with their credit cards, he added.

Powerful fans were clearing the restaurant of residual smoke within an hour of the initial call to firefighters at 6:55 p.m.

Miller said fire investigators will inspect the flue for blockage and health inspectors are expected to ensure the restaurant is suitable for diners.

There was no structural damage. The incident rerouted southbound traffic on Argonne as multiple fire trucks converged on the restaurant.