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Building housing three businesses burns on U.S. 280 in Phenix City

Smiths Station firefighters aided by the Phenix City Fire Department battled a stubborn blaze today at Alabama Rock Landscape Supplies & Trailer Sales, Dirt Dobbers and a cabinet shop on U.S. 280 at Lee Road 456.

Tires stored in back of the building were aflame, producing a thick, black column of smoke that could be seen for miles.

Smith Station Assistant Chief Daniel Sexton said employees of the businesses involved were there when firefighters got to the "very large fire."

"I'm sure there were people inside when the fire started, but they were all out and accounted for upon our arrival, according to the employees of the business," Sexton said. No one was injured in the blaze, but the building was a total loss, he said.

Superior Gas Company worker Gary Mitchell said he was on the highway headed toward Phenix City when he saw the smoke and flames.

"I went to the top of the hill, turned around and come back, and as I came down the hill I could see the flames rolling out," Mitchell said. He called 911 and the building's owner, whom he knew, he said, and then started helping three employees move valuables to safety.

Firefighters said the alarm came in at 11:04 a.m. EDT.

Mitchell said the fire started on the end of the building where the Dirt Dobbers excavation company was located, but spread swiftly.

"Once it got into that attic, it just come on through it," he said. "It rolled from one end to the other fast."

The gas company immediately shut off the propane running to the structure, Sexton said.

"We're just now getting the fire out to the point that we can even start getting inside of the building, so we really don't have a cause," Sexton said around 1:45 p.m. Firefighters expected to be on the scene for "several more hours," he said.

Original story: Fire officials from Lee County, Russell County, Phenix City and Smiths Station are fighting a fire at Alabama Rock Landscape Supplies & Trailer Sales and a cabinet shop on Highway 280 and Lee Road 456.

The alarm for the fire came at 11:04 a.m. EDT. Multiple fire trucks are on the scene and at one point were fighting a large fire. Tires in the back of the business are burning hard.

Traffic on Highway 280 going toward Opelika, Ala., was significantly backed up around 12:15 p.m.

The business is next to the Courts of Praise Family Life Center, but the fire didn't reach the nearby center.

Gary Mitchell, who works with Superior Gas Company, said he was headed toward Phenix City when he saw the fire on the east end of the building where the Dirt Dobbers office space is located. He turned around, called 911 and the owner, whom he knew, he said.

"I went to the top of the hill, turned around and come back, and as I came down the hill I could see the flames rolling out," he said. "Once it got into that attic, it just come on through it. It rolled from one end to the other fast."

Three workers were in the building when Mitchell arrived, he said. He helped them retrieve valuables from the burning structure until firefighters arrived, he said.

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