Two arrests have been made in connection with the fire that destroyed a local Taco Bell restaurant on Sunday.

The restaurant, at 512 S. George Nigh Expwy., was considered a total loss with approximately $800,000 in damage, according to fire reports.

“The fire marshal’s office and McAlester Police Department were successful in determining the cause of the fire,” interim McAlester Fire Chief Harold Stewart said.

Two men were arrested on Sunday following a probe by McAlester police and fire department investigators. Stewart confirmed both suspects were employees at Taco Bell, and more than $4,000 believed to be connected with the case was recovered.

“One of the people arrested actually led police officers to where the money was hidden,” Stewart said. “It was in a wooded area on Industrial Boulevard.”

Stewart also confirmed an accelerant was used to start the blaze.

“During the interrogations it was found that gasoline was used as an accelerant to start the fire,” Stewart said. “This explains the problems the fire department had putting it out.”

Stewart said the fire would have been much easier to extinguish if gasoline hadn’t been used.

“You could tell that it wasn’t a normal fire as fast as it spread and as hot as it burned,” Stewart said.

The McAlester Fire Department arrived at the fire at 9:36 a.m. Sunday, according to the initial fire report.

Firefighters entered the building through the west entrance and headed for the kitchen on the south side of the structure, fire reports state. However, the fire had already spread to the attic and roof, according to fire reports.

Firefighters were forced out of the building by debris falling from the ceiling. They set up a ladder truck on the west side of the building and attacked the fire from above.

The fire was under control by around 1 p.m., according to fire reports.

The Pittsburg County District Attorney’s office had not received a police report pertaining to the investigation as of 9:30 this morning, said First Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Harmon.

The McAlester Taco Bell franchise is owned by a Fort Smith. Ark.-based company called K-Mac. Jill Roughley, spokesperson for K-Mac, said the Taco Bell restaurant in McAlester will be rebuilt.

“Yes, we can confirm that,” Roughley said. “But that’s about it at this time. We just became aware of the fire and we’re still gathering information.”

Contact Trevor Dunbar at tdunbar@mcalesternews.com