OWNERS of a Helensburgh pizza restaurant say they feared a fire which broke out in the kitchen of their premises this week was going to destroy the building.

The blaze at Padrone in West Clyde Street broke out at about 10.20am on Monday.

Fire crews from Helensburgh and Garelochhead were on site for more than two hours extinguishing the blaze and making sure it hadn’t spread into wall cavities or to neighbouring properties.

Seven people were on the premises when the fire broke out.

No-one was injured in the blaze, though Milan Nikolic, who runs the restaurant with his wife Cara, and head chef Adam Booley were checked by paramedics for the effects of smoke inhalation after trying to fight the flames themselves.

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The restaurant is now closed until further notice, and Cara said on Wednesday that she did not yet have a timescale for its re-opening.

Describing the blaze, Cara said: “The fryer had been cleaned and new oil put in that morning.

“It was turned on before service and began smoking and then it just burst into flames.

“Everyone sprang into action and reacted really quickly. The head chef put the fire blanket on the fryer but the next minute it was on fire again.

“I shouted to our supervisor to call 999, and suddenly the back, where the kitchen is, was full of black smoke and Milan had a towel around his face trying to put it out with an extinguisher.”

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Milan added: “The fire was so fierce. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s unbelievable how fast it spread.

“It was flashing up the wall and across the ceiling. Every time I sprayed the fire it went off for a second and then flared up again.

“I left the kitchen twice to take a quick breath and went back in with the towel around my mouth and held my breath.

“But when the black smoke started pouring out of the kitchen, I knew I had to get out.

“We are extremely thankful to the fire services, who were there within five minutes.

“I thought the whole building was going to go up.”

The couple fitted a new kitchen, including the fryer, when they refurbished the former Riverbank to turn it into Padrone in May 2017.

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Cara said: “It took hold really quickly and went up the walls and across the roof. The smoke was black.

“I shouted to Milan to leave it, and he came out coughing and all seven of us got out. Then we heard the sirens and the Helensburgh fire services were there. They were really rapid.

“They went in with breathing apparatus, it was thick black smoke and was completely dark through the back, and they asked directions to where the fryer was. The smoke was pouring out of the back fire exit.

“It took a good while to put out – I don’t know how long, but there were there for over two hours.

“They said afterwards it was really fierce, and every time it seemed they had it out it sprang up again.

“It’s a small, enclosed kitchen and the heat inside was intense.”

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Cara also alerted the landlord of the neighbouring Ruby Chinese restaurant, which is located above Padrone.

“The firefighters said they needed to get into the Ruby upstairs to check it as its closed on a Monday and they said if they don’t come quickly they would need to break the door down and they were just forcing it open when the restaurant owner arrived.

“The firefighters needed to check if the fire had travelled upstairs,” she continued, “and had to put holes in our walls and ceiling once the fire was out to check there was no fire inside the walls.

“They were extremely thorough.

“Some smoke had travelled through the ceiling to the Ruby and the fire services checked all was okay up there and opened all their windows.

“Adam was seen to by medics next door in La Barca and Milan was checked out in the back of the ambulance. They are both fine.

"We are very grateful to the fire services for saving our restaurant and stopping the fire from spreading to the Ruby and the tenement flats above.

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“We’d like to also thank our staff for acting so quickly and the police and ambulance crews for everything they did that morning.

“We’ve had lots of messages of support from people. We are just all relieved, it could have been much worse. The important thing is no one was hurt.

“We don’t know why it happened, the fryer has failed for some reason. The kitchen is gutted but that’s all fixable.”

The couple have contacted contractors and are working to reopen the premises as soon as possible.

Cara added: “I really don’t know a timescale yet, but we are doing everything we can to reopen and get back to serving our customers just as soon as we can.”