Businesses destroyed by Christmas Eve fire

Two businesses in south Columbia were destroyed by an early morning fire on Christmas Eve, a fire department official said Thursday.

Tony’s Custom Paint and Body Shop and an adjoining auto-detailing business suffered $325,000 damage in what appears to be an accidental fire that was reported at 3:30 a.m., fire spokesman Aubrey Jenkins said.

But the Richland County fire marshal is investigating, he said.

The body shop owner and an employee were in the business at 1011 Dreyfuss Road when the fire broke out as the employee was working on a vehicle’s fuel pump, Jenkins said.

They tried to fight the fire themselves but then called firefighters for help, he said. The fire station is just a few doors away, but flames were through the shop’s roof when firefighters arrived at 3:39 a.m.

Staff writer Clif LeBlanc