"We had flames from the rear of the building out the roof," said Clayton Fire Chief Lee Barbee. "It took us two hours to get it under control."
Barbee said the fire started at 5:30 p.m., during the heart of rush hour. Highway 70 was closed down in both directions because the smoke was blowing across the road, and firefighters also needed safe access to fight the flames. Around 8 p.m., traffic was still at a standstill for 6-10 miles in both directions.
"I left work at 6:15," said motorist Teresa Ormond. "It took me until 7:15 to get home from Novo Nordisk to downtown...four miles."
Investigators say the fire started in the back of what's called the Mitchner Building and spread to a nearby taco stand and gas station. All of the buildings are closed down and no longer in business. Because the buildings are no longer in use, the fire is considered suspicious.
Investigators expect to be at the scene looking for clues late into Friday night. There will also be someone guarding the scene all night.
A Clayton business that burned two years ago, went up in flames again. "Tacos To Go" and Absolute Wireless both burned in February 2004. Investigators believe a discarded cigarette may have sparked the fire at the taco shop, which burned again Friday. Investigatiors believe an electrical problem at Absolute Wireless led to that fire.