It was a little less than a week ago that a fire nearly destroyed the Nifty Fifty’s restaurant in Bensalem, Pa. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, the diner’s general manager Dino Thoroughgood said things could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for one employee showing what he called “grace under fire.”
“There’s only one way to describe it, what she did; it’s to have grace under fire. Literally, she was very calm and collected throughout the entire situation and she thought of things that people normally wouldn’t think of,” Thoroughgood said.
Jennifer Manning was the manager on site on the morning of July 19 when a fire broke out near a ceiling fan in the dining area and eventually fully engulfed the building’s roof. According to Thoroughgood, in the few minutes between the fire starting and the building being evacuated, Manning made some key decisions that limited fire damage and possibly saved lives.
“Jennifer went around shutting off the fryers, she shut off the burners and the warmers; she shut everything off that would’ve fed the fire. Everything where there was gas was barely touched and that was in part because of what she did,” he said.
“I think she really prevented the township and the community from having to evacuate totally because a lot of gas comes through that building, and the travel path would’ve led directly to those items and probably wouldn’t have given anyone time to get out.”
The restaurant’s corporate office applauded Manning’s efforts in a post on its Facebook page:
“We would like to send a special "Thank You" to one of our very brave managers, Jennifer Manning! Jenn was the manager at Bensalem last week when the fire broke out and managed to get all of the customers and staff out of the building in 4 minutes. She kept her calm and went around and turned off all of the fryers and grills, preventing an even bigger disaster. Her quick thinking and bravery are remarkable and we're proud to say she's part of our Nifty family! Thanks Jenn!”
Manning, who worked at the 1950s-themed restaurant for nearly two years said she was in the process of making creamed chipped beef when the fire broke out. Her first reaction: drop the beef, and save the customers.
“It was just spontaneous. I was actually in the middle of grabbing beef to make creamed chipped beef when one of the waitresses came to get me and told me that she saw smoke coming from the back of the restaurant. So, right away I stopped what I was doing and told them to call 911 and evacuate the customers. Then I went to the back of the restaurant where the smoke was and I just saw flames everywhere so me and the cook just went around and turned off all the fryers and the burners,” she said.
Manning also alerted a worker who was in a walk-in refrigerator that a fire was happening and that he needed to evacuate, and exited the building herself, all in less than five minutes. But Manning says she’s not interested in any accolades.
“My first reaction was just to make sure everyone got out safely. I don’t want any recognition; I was just doing my job. Really we all did it as a team. I have a great group of coworkers, we all consider each other family, so we call came together through this tragic time.”
Manning has temporarily been transferred to a Nifty Fifty’s location in Clementon, N.J. while the Bensalem location is being rebuilt.
Thoroughgood said he’s looking forward to rebuilding a bigger and better Nifty Fifty’s in the same location very soon and when he does, he hopes to welcome Manning back as manager again.
“Not surprisingly, she’s one of our better managers. She just has that personality all of the time and we can’t wait to have her back,” he said.
“We can’t wait to get things back up and running. It’s a horrible reason to have to renovate, but the owner is already talking about a lot of great ways we can improve all around.”