Fire tears through Hinze's BBQ restaurant in Wharton

By Lauren Freeman - Anchor

WHARTON, Texas - A Wharton icon has been destroyed. Hinze's BBQ has been a staple in the community for 40 years, but on Monday night a fast-moving fire gutted it.

The fire started Monday at around 7 p.m. as a grease fire in one of the pits. Employees tried to put it out but their fire extinguisher ran out and the fire spread.

The flames and smoke were intense. A viewer sent us video of the actual fire raging through the restaurant, with firefighters trying their best to save the beloved building.

"This is a landmark for Wharton, always has been," said Dennis Jerkins.

For Jerkins, Hinze's BBQ isn't just about good food, it's about memories.

"My son lives in North Carolina and when he come out of high school he worked here," he said.

The fire started while the restaurant was full of customers. Employees were able to get everyone out safely.

"I've been here for 41 years and this is my whole life. It's my family, it's a family-owned place. I've got my three sisters, my son, my daughter work here, everybody," said owner Michael Hinze.

He is terribly worried about his 45 employees and how they'll make ends meet.

"They've done everything I ask, and done it good and now this," said Hinze.

It took firefighters less than an hour to contain the fire.

"It's a tragic lose for all the people who come through Wharton County," said Wharton Fire Chief Anthony Abbott.

Hinze says he's set on one thing now.

"We're going to work real hard to try and get rebuilt quick as we can," said Hinze.

Firefighters were on scene for about four hours putting out hot spots and making sure onlookers didn't get too close.

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