Hairstylist Lawrence Koh was in the middle of giving a customer a haircut at Lucky Plaza when smoke started to seep out of the overhead air-con vents.
"I didn't panic because the smoke was bearable at first, so I decided to quickly finish up the haircut," said the owner of a hair salon on the second level of Lucky Plaza.
"I couldn't let my customers leave with their hair half-done."
As the smoke got thicker, he peeped out of his shop and realised that it was coming from the Indonesian restaurant next door.
When the fire alarm went off, Mr Koh, who is in his 50s, told his customers and his assistants to evacuate.
There were five customers and two other employees in the salon at the time.
Mr Koh said: "The smoke was so bad, it was choking and we couldn't breathe. It was just like entering a sauna where you can't really see your hands. Luckily, most customers were almost done, so we switched off all equipment and left."
There were no reported injuries from the fire, which occurred yesterday at around 1pm. The New Paper understands that around 600 people evacuated the building.
Eyewitnesses said they saw smoke coming from Warung Surabaya, an ayam penyet restaurant on the second level.
Mr Tan Boon Chai, 49, who owns a jewellery store opposite the restaurant, said he saw flames and smoke coming from the kitchen.
A part-time worker from the restaurant, Mr Kelvin Soh, 40, said the fire started in the ventilation unit in the kitchen. He claimed that there was smoke coming out of the ventilation unit but he did not see flames.
The restaurant had about 50 customers who ran out.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said that it was alerted to the incident at 1.10pm.
The fire involved the contents of a kitchen on level two and the ventilation duct on the ground floor. Three water jets were used to extinguish the fire and no injuries were reported.
The SCDF sent two fire engines, two red rhinos, one ambulance and five support vehicles to the scene.
Madam Penny Beh, 47, owner of a beauty salon a few units from the affected restaurant, said: "The mall was more crowded than usual because it's the festive season and many maids were here to send money to their families back home."
People were allowed to re-enter the mall at around 2.30pm but the area around the affected restaurant was cordoned off.
The floor on the first and second levels, on the side where the restaurant is located, was flooded with water about 5cm high. The water is believed to be from the water jets used by the SCDF. The smell of smoke also hung in the air.
The fire is the eighth in a recent spate of accidents that have occurred at Orchard Road since the beginning of this month.
Earlier this week, water seeping in from a heavy downpour caused a power outage at Orchard Central and four people were injured when the false ceiling at Hilton Hotel's driveway collapsed.
Last week, a 48-year-old Indonesian man died after falling several storeys inside Wisma Atria mall.
Earlier this month, a Christmas tree and some Christmas decorations also caught fire.
This article was first published on Dec 19, 2015.
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