ST. CHARLES, Ill. (STMW) – Fire fueled by a natural gas line leak caused considerable damage to Salerno’s on the Fox restaurant Wednesday evening in northwest suburban St. Charles.

No injuries have been reported.

Manager Nick Smith said restaurant employees and patrons saw smoke outside through the bay window of the dining room.

There were 40 to 50 people in the restaurant when the fire started.

“We had a lot of people in the restaurant,” Smith said. “We just wanted to get them out. Everyone got out safely.”

Firefighters responded shortly after 6 p.m. For more than two hours, flames spewed from a gas line at the northeast corner of the restaurant, on Route 31 just north of Route 64, on the west bank of the Fox River.

Flames, looking like they were coming from a huge blowtorch, were more than six feet high at the site of the fire, which started in a storage area near the kitchen and a workstation for patio service, according to a waitress.

A Northern Illinois Gas crew worked with an excavator near the entrance to the restaurant’s parking lot, trying to get to the gas line and shut it off. At 8:30 p.m., NI-Gas personnel were awaiting additional equipment.

St. Charles Fire Chief Patrick Mullen said crews were using several hose lines to spray in the area of the flames. The effort had contained the flames to prevent further damage to the restaurant, he said.

There were 17 pieces of firefighting equipment on the scene, including units from St. Charles, Geneva, Elgin, North Aurora, Batavia and Pingree Grove.

Route 31 was closed from Route 64 to the railroad trestle north of the restaurant.

The restaurant has been in operation since 1975, and employs approximately 30 people.

“It’s more devastating because I’ve worked here a long time, and I know Adam and Joe [Salerno, the owners],” Smith said.

“It hurts to see something happen to your own establishment.”

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Watch & Listen LIVE