AUBURNDALE, Fla. (WFLA) — A fire damaged a popular family-run barbecue restaurant Friday morning, leaving its owners to spend the holiday season cleaning up and making repairs.

“It’s sad and kind of scary at the same time,” said Jessica Knowles, who is in the process of purchasing Peebles Bar-B-Q, with her sister, from their parents. “We have a lot of employees that rely on income for Christmas, especially so it’s a horrible time for it to happen.”

(WFLA)

Kitchen manager Kyle Walliser said he showed up at 4:30 a.m. like he always does and fired up the barbecue pit.

“Everything was going fine,” he said. “I went outside to get some more wood and when I came back inside, the pit was ablaze,”

Grease fires happen sometimes, he said.

So Walliser smothered the flames and continued on.

Then he noticed fire above the pit.

“I came outside from the back side of the building, and I could see the smoke coming from under the chimney instead of through the chimney so that’s not supposed to happen,” he said.

He and Knowles tried to extinguish the flames.

“By the time I got anywhere near where the fire was, the metal of the roof was so hot that it literally, it burned my fingertips, and I fell at one point and burned my legs. It was extremely hot,” he said.

Firefighters with the City of Auburndale and Polk Fire Rescue were called to the scene just before 8 a.m. and were able to contain and take down the fire.

The restaurant sustained damage to the interior and the roof, along with water damage.

“It’s sad. We’ve had little fires before but nothing to this extent,” said Marsha Peebles Strickland, whose parents founded the restaurant 75 years ago.

“It is our life,” she said. “I mean, we’re only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, but we’re here almost every day for something, doing something.”

The family will have to clean up and rebuild without help from an insurance company.

“Nope, they won’t insure us,” said Knowles.

The people who work at the restaurant look at their business more like a community.

They said they are not going anywhere.

“We got a lot of customers and a lot of people pulling up already trying to get some food so we don’t want to disappoint. We’re gonna try to get it back up as soon as we can,” Walliser said. “This place has been here for 75 years and still didn’t burn down yet. We’re still here.”

The owners hope to be fully re-opened in the next few weeks. The holiday season and post-holiday season are some of their busiest times of the year.