Rudy’s Lightning Strike | Southampton Estate Protection

A barbecue restaurant that has fast become a staple of the Tyler area is closed indefinitely after a lightning strike ignited a fire that claimed the cooking and kitchen areas.

Capt. Jeff Akin, Tyler Fire Department public information officer, said two separate fires broke out at the Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q, 1410 SSW Loop 323, after a late Thursday night lighting strike.

“Investigators have determined that lightning struck the building and caused an electrical short that caused the fire,” he said.

Akin said firefighters arrived on scene shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday and fought the first fire and checked the building for any other sources of heat. They cleared the scene about 12:45 Friday morning.

But firefighters were called back to the restaurant at 4 a.m. Friday when another fire broke out.

“A power surge came into the building and the fire traveled through the wiring. The first call the fire was on one end of the back of the building then the second was on opposite corner of the building,” he said.

Akin said it was unusual for a fire to rekindle.

“This one was kind of unique because it traveled through the electrical conduit,” he said.

During both fires the department called a second alarm, which Akin said was department procedure on commercial fires.

Standing in front of two giant burned cooking pits with rain falling through a giant hole in the roof, Rudy’s employees were surveying the damage and were unsure when the business would be operational.

Alan Jordan, Rudy’s area director, said he was waiting on the insurance adjuster to make any predictions as to how long the restaurant would be closed.

“Right now that is all up in the air. Unfortunately the fire took out most of the mechanical aspects of the restaurant, but it was contained to the back storage area and the kitchen,” he said.

Jordan said early estimates have the damage at several hundred thousand dollars.

“We just don’t have a solid figure at this time,” he said.

Jordan said the pits are manufactured in Dallas, but are only built after Rudy’s places an order.

“We have another location opening up in Norman Oklahoma so maybe we can get those pits and bring them here. I have already found out what kind of permits we need and now we’re waiting on the adjuster,” he said.

Jordan said he hoped the customers would understand and would return after the repairs are made.

“The Tyler location has done very well and it continues to grow. We want to resume operation as soon as possible,” he said.

Jordan said it was the second time the building has been damaged by an act of nature.

In August 2003 the restaurant’s roof was torn off when a line of powerful thunderstorms moved through Tyler.

Rudy’s was founded in 1989 in Leon Springs and now has 15 country stores in Texas.

┬ęTyler Morning Telegraph 2006