Tuolumne County firefighters saved Mike’s Pizza of Sonora from a close call early Friday morning.

Cal Fire stated in a news release that firefighters from the Tuolumne County Fire Department Mono Village station and Cal Fire Standard station were dispatched at 1:04 a.m. Friday to a reported fire alarm sounding from the business, located at 14721 Mono Way in East Sonora.

Tuolumne County Fire Capt. Nick Giampaoli said he arrived on Engine 511 from the Mono Village station and was met by two employees who were hanging out in the parking lot after getting off work about 11:30 p.m.

Giampaoli said the employees told him they noticed smoke inside the building and called the fire department because they didn’t have keys to get inside.

The firefighters forced entry and found the smoke coming from baskets filled with cleaning towels in the kitchen area.

Two of the baskets caught fire as Giampaoli was removing them from the building, he said.

Giampaoli said the cause was under investigation.

Lindsey Scott, manager of the restaurant, said the towels were being dried in a recently purchased dryer and placed in the baskets that were left inside the kitchen area before the night manager locked up the building.

Scott said they believe the towels may have gotten too hot while in the dryer and started smoldering while in the baskets.

The restaurant opened in 2004 under the ownership of Jim Simonitch, based on the same recipes and menu as its sister location in Angel Camp.

Nancy Wilbur, of Sacramento, was announced as the new owner of the business in April. She has worked in restaurant real-estate and management for nearly 25 years, according to the Mike’s Pizza of Sonora website.

The restaurant has also won a number of Readers’ Choice awards in The Union Democrat for best pizza.

“I have actually gotten two phone calls already asking if we’re open,” Scott said. “Yes, we’re fine. Nothing is damaged and all is well with us, so we feel pretty lucky.”

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.