No injuries were reported in the blaze that started in the rear of 206 W. Hill Street.
Flames claimed the roof and interior of Xtreme Signs and Graphics and a collectibles shop in the rear of the building.
Flames spread next door to Annie Bailey’s Tax Service, and smoke damaged Balloon Delights and Little G’s Pizza restaurant. Seven other businesses in adjacent buildings were closed as precautions.
Thomson Fire Rescue Chief Rick Sewell said an investigation has begun, but no determination or cause or damage estimate was likely before Friday.
Michael Crosby of the State Fire Marshal’s Office arrived at the scene about 11:30.
Firefighters salvaged computers and scorched paper records from the tax service and turned them over to Bailey. She said the service would be closed about three days. She has operated the business since 2001.
Little G’s owner Lisa Adams also said her business would be closed three days. She said her restaurant opened at 5 a.m. and was serving the breakfast crowd when the fire was reported about 8:15. She said about 20 customers were ushered from the diner. Adams bought the business about three weeks ago.
“We were in the restaurant, and somebody said they saw something that might be fog,” said James Buffington of Thomson. “We went outside and saw different.”
Xtreme Signs owner Rosie Norris said she was on the way to take her daughter to the doctor when she took the call about the fire, and no employees were in the store at that early hour. She said the store’s inventory included some orders ready to ship. She said she has been in business three years, but at that location for about a year and a half.
The McDuffie County Fire Service and the Martinez/Columbia County agencies assisted at the scene.