Downtown Marion shuts down due to fire

Firefighters respond to a fire in downtown Marion Friday morning. / Tonya Brown

Friday morning, an officer with the Marion Police Department was on his route patrolling downtown Marion when he saw smoke coming from a building and called for help.

A smoky haze covered the streets of downtown Marion as city firefighters battled the massive fire.

Police blocked every street leading to Main Street in the downtown as a safety precaution.

By daylight, you could see the full extent of the damage.

The Mayor of Marion was overwhelmed.

"I stay about eight blocks from here and the smell was just so obvious and on the way here as I got closer you could start to see the devastation," said Mayor Rodney Berry.

A vacant building and two businesses were destroyed, Tio's Restaurant and Richardson's Appliances and Antiques.

Three neighboring businesses, including Champion Martial Arts and Jus Shoes, received a lot of smoke damage.

"I'm just so devastated right now I can't even talk," said Justine Roberts, owner of Jus Shoes.

"We lost quite a bit in there," said Fred Gause, owner of Champion Martial Arts.

The owners tried to salvage what they could. Most of what they could save ended up on the sidewalk.

Roberts said, "I was able to salvage a lot of my items. My shoes just got some smoke damage. A lot of my costumes in the back, I didn't get out. They're damaged with the smoke."

"The area that caught fire is probably three or four of our most strongest entrepreneurs," said Mayor Berry.

The merchants say they will bounce back because they've invested too much in their businesses and the Marion community to give up.

Gause said, "When life comes at us with challenges instead of just falling down or giving up that we live like champions. That we'll put the pieces together, we'll reassess and rebuild."

In the meantime, agents with the State Law Enforcement Division are helping to determine the cause and origin of the fire, but officers say they don't suspect arson at this point.

City officials say the streets surrounding downtown will remain closed until Saturday morning for safety reasons.

They estimate fire damages to be around one million dollars.