Work continued on the roof of Wendy's restaurant on McCulloh Street as the employees below began serving food when Lakiesha Williams realized something was wrong.
"The man on the roof kept poking over the top of my head as I was taking the orders and every time he banged, you could see the smoke coming through the ceiling, and I kept telling my manager, 'We can't see. We can't breathe." We need to just get out,' said Williams.
Williams says her manager scoffed at her concerns, even jokingly asking her if she thought the roof was about to collapse, and she began poking her head out of the drive-through window to get some fresh air.
Moments later, she, her fellow workers and the customers inside the restaurant all realized this was no joke.
"The next thing I know. I went up to the front to push the food out and then the ceiling burst into flames," Williams said. "We all tried to run out the side door to look for the manager so that we could just get out."
The call went out for firefighters who extinguished the fire and later learned workers with torches on the roof had accidently sparked the flames, but the fire had crept through the ceiling below after they thought they had put it out.
It appears Williams' concern over the safety of those inside also was well-founded.
"Typically, we are very concerned because on these structures, with the construction assembly, with the truss roofing, the roof tends to fail very quickly if it was heavily involved in fire,” said Baltimore City Battalion Chief William Hoffman, “So our guys did a really great job getting in there very fast to save the building."
While everyone evacuated without injury, Williams, who helps provide for three children, is left wondering why those who run the fast food restaurant were so slow to react to the fire.
"I don't know what I'm going to do when I wake up tomorrow," Williams said. "How am I going to work? How am I going to take care of my kids? What do we do now? Nobody apologized. They didn't immediately exit us from the building. I don't know. I just felt like our lives were in jeopardy and we still had to stay in there to work."