The first A&W Restaurant opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1956, more than ten years before McDonald’s staked its first set of golden arches anywhere in Canada. The restaurant proudly calls itself the country’s original burger chain, and those 850 A&W locations are probably the only places, period, where you can ask for extra Teen Sauce without being placed on some kind of watchlist.
Anyway, Canadians love that place, which might be why cars were still in line at the drive-thru as a different A&W in Winnipeg burned to the ground on Sunday afternoon. According to Global News, a bystander who wasn’t waiting for a Chubby Chicken burger called 911 when he noticed that smoke was billowing from the restaurant’s roof. The news outlet reports that burger-hungry customers remained “oblivious” to the situation, despite the fact that the smoke was so thick, firefighters couldn’t even go inside to battle the flames.
Those inside the A&W caught on pretty quickly, and everyone—customers and employees—was able to evacuate safely. The Winnipeg Free Press reports that a total of 18 fire crews were called in to fight this fire; they remained on the scene until 2:30 AM on Monday. The final charred pieces of the building were demolished the same day. (At some point, it seems like the cars in the drive-thru gave up on their Mama Burgers and went home).
Fire Chief John Lane told CBC News that both accumulated cooking grease and frigid temperatures made this fire even harder to deal with. “First of all, the cold itself makes the air denser, there's more oxygen for the fire so it burns faster and hotter," he said. “And of course [...] we have to really be careful as far as things icing up, we have to keep lines running all the time so they don't freeze. It all just makes a difficult job all the more difficult.”
Despite losing his restaurant, the franchisee who owns (owned?) that A&W says he’d like to rebuild it as soon as he can. “I've seen the pictures and it virtually burnt to the ground,” an A&W Canada spokesperson told the Free Press. “The franchise owner really wants to rebuild and there are a number of steps he'll have to go through, but he wants to get it [...] open this year.”
It’s not too early to get in line for the drive-thru.