Rooftop heating unit catches fire at Merrimack’s Billy’s Famous Pizza; no one injured

Merrimack firefighters quickly extinguished a fire on the roof of a pizza parlor before it spread to the rest of the building Tuesday, March 18.

Firefighters were called to Billy’s Famous Pizza in the Skyline Mall at 380 Daniel Webster highway shortly before 9 a.m. for a report of a fire on the roof of the restaurant, according to Merrimack Fire Capt. John Manuele.

Engine 1 arrived first and saw smoke coming from the roof and filling the restaurant. Firefighters accessed the roof by ladder and found a fire they were able to quickly control in a propane-fueled heating unit, Manuele said.

The fire was declared under control at 9:02 a.m., about 10 minutes after the initial call, and once the smoke was vented out of the building, a health inspector decided it could remain open.

“There was no interruption,” said owner Anestis Kalas as he took a break from cooking and serving lunch Tuesday. “The guys are fixing the heating system now.”

Kalas said he arrived to the shop about 8:30 Tuesday morning and started his pizza ovens and turned on the heat as usual. About four or five minutes later, he said, he noticed an odd smell.

Kalas said he thought that it could be a malfunctioning oven, which he investigated. Shortly after, he noticed smoke coming from a heat vent in his ceiling. He shut off the heat and called the Merrimack Fire Department.

Kalas said he was glad the situation didn’t get worse and that he was around to shut down the heating system before a fire threatened the rest of the businesses in the strip mall.

Tuesday was the second – and much more minor – fire at a pizza-related business within a week. Firefighters used so much water fighting a four-alarm blaze at the Rustic Crust in Pittsfield on March 6 that the town closed its schools the next day.

One firefighter was injured when he slipped on some ice while battling the fire but 20 employees escaped the building uninjured.

The New Hampshire company makes Rustic Crust ready-made pizza crusts and all-natural American Flatbread pizzas.

Tuesday’s fire in Merrimack was traced to a malfunction of the rooftop heating unit, and all firefighters cleared the scene by 9:30 a.m., Manuele said.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).