SHARON, Pa. (WKBN) – It was a close call when a pile of towels and other laundry started smoldering and ignited Wednesday evening inside The Block restaurant complex in downtown Sharon.

The business was closed at the time, but a sprinkler overhead put out the flames even before firefighters could get there from just a few blocks away.

A pair of chairs were destroyed, some floor tiles were scorched and a basement “speakeasy” had water damage, but workers were able to clean up the mess quickly.

“A very small bin fire — some clean laundry that was immediately doused by the sprinkler,” said Pete Grabaskas, operations manager. “Put some fans on ’cause there is always a little bit of smoke, but we were normal business as of yesterday and had all sections of the restaurant open.”

The story goes back to July when Sharon fire inspectors came to check on this newly opened business and discovered the fire sprinkler system had been shut off by previous owners years ago when they left the building.

“I think that this is a success story. We have a situation here where there was a deficiency that was not necessarily anyone in particular’s fault,” said Deputy Chief Nick Samson.

Firefighters said the inspection process did its job, uncovering a problem no one else was aware of so that repairs could be made, averting a potential disaster.

“It could have been a fire of a generation -a 20-year-type fire,” Samson said.

Samson believes this is proof of how important inspections and working sprinkler systems can be.