Eaton, CO- Jesse Fanciulli, Greeley Tribune

A gas leak and subsequent small explosion and fire closed an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet restaurant in Eaton on Monday night.

Trouble began Monday afternoon when Ho Mei Chinese Buffet & Lounge manager Edward Ng, 48, detected the odor of natural gas in the newly refurbished restaurant at 101 2nd St.

So Ng set out to inspect a gas line that ran to the attic, using a lighter to find the leak, he said.

About 5 p.m. he found the source of the problem when the flame from his lighter caused a small gas explosion, Ng said.

Ng was not burned but nearby insulation or lint caught fire, he said.

Ng attacked the flames with a fire extinguisher and Eaton firefighters rushed to the scene to finish the job. The Union Colony Fire/Rescue Authority also offered assistance with a ladder truck because the Eaton fire department doesn’t have one.

Firefighters used axes and chain saws to cut holes in the roof south wall of the building as neighbors and restaurant employees watched.

Ng said damage to the building was minimal — and he expects to reopen the restaurant within a few days.

He admits his plan to find the gas leak using a lighter was unwise.

“I am embarrassed,” Ng said. “My boss is going to be angry.”