NATICK (CBS) – A huge fire destroyed eight businesses in Natick as it burned for several hours early Monday.
Firefighters were called to the row of shops at East Central and South Main streets near Natick Center around 1:20 a.m. and found heavy fire in the basement of the King Wok Chinese restaurant.
"It was more of that blackish smoke and it looked like there was a fire inside," said Brandon Olsen who called 911. "At one point you could be like 20 feet away from something and you couldn't even see it."
Acting Natick Fire Chief Daniel Dow said the complex, which was built in 1900, holds seven other businesses. It will now all be torn down.
"It's too early to tell where the fire originated," Dow told reporters in a news conference. The state Fire Marshal said Monday afternoon the fire does not appear to be suspicious.
The fire burned for more than nine hours and filled the air with heavy, thick smoke as the sun rose.
"There's a lot of different businesses in there. We have a print shop in there, we have a Christian Science reading room in there, there's a lot of heavy fire load, there's a Chinese restaurant in there, we're unsure what the fire load is and then the construction of the building itself. That (rubber) membrane roof will cause all kind of smoke," Dow said.
Nancy Kelley lost her dance studio of 35 years in the fire. "I'm like why is the town of Natick calling me at four in the morning. And it was the fire department and they said there is a fire," Kelley said. "The roof caved in and that was the end of the studio."
Firefighters were able to save some photos and plaques from the dance studio. "It doesn't look like a lot but it's a lot of our memories," Kelley said.
Rob Morris just moved his antique shop out of the building a week ago. "I was just waiting to come back for my sign when it was all done and lo and behold," Morris said.
Firefighters from Framingham, Wellesley and several other towns were called in to help as the fire rose to nine alarms and the roof started to collapse.
"The heat has been a challenge today, that's why we went to so many alarms," the chief said.
"The smoke was so thick, we have air-conditioning, but the smoke still came into the house. We jumped outside and assumed a neighbor was on fire," said resident Jim Williamson who lives nearby.
"It's just the heart of Natick, the bakery, the Chinese place, it's scary. It's really scary," Natick resident Lorraine Williamson told WBZ-TV.
"This is the heart of downtown. It's going to be a really difficult time for the town and the people down here who work here," the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Michael Hickey, told reporters.
Three firefighters were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
There's no word yet on an estimated cost of the damage.
Nancy Kelley is vowing to reopen her business. "Although I may not be open for the summer, I'll start again in the fall with someplace around here," Kelley said. "The place is not what counts. It's the people inside."
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