Restaurant owner hailed as hero after explosions at Oktoberfest in Huntington Beach

A restaurant owner is being hailed a hero for his quick thinking that likely saved lives when an underground electrical vault exploded during Octoberfest on Saturday in Huntington Beach.

Bernie Bischof, the owner of Old World Village restaurant, reportedly smelled a foul odor about 40 minutes before the blast and decided to evacuate the area closest to the vault and call the fire department. When firefighters arrived to investigate, they and the owner were near the vault when it exploded.

Witnesses said they saw a giant fireball that was followed by multiple explosions. Five people were hurt including Bischof and two firefighters that responded. 


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An employee of the restaurant who didn’t want his face on camera said, “well Bernie’s a hero. Once he detected that there was an unusual smell in the patio, he asked everybody in that area to leave and then cordoned off the area. The fact that he did that, I believe, saved lives."

Bischof suffered burns to over 35% of his body. 

The fire department says a transformer inside an underground electrical vault exploded during the seasonal celebration. The transformer was one of three held in the underground vault.

The blast caused minimal structural damage but left about 300 Southern California Edison customers in the dark until Sunday afternoon. 

Although SoCal Edison made quick repairs in the vault, the Old World Village Oktoberfest celebration was canceled on Sunday. The cause of the fire and explosion remain under investigation.

FOX 11's Gina Silva contributed to this report.