NATICK, MASS. (WHDH) - Nearly a dozen business owners are left picking up the pieces after a massive 8-alarm fire tore through a retail building in downtown Natick Monday morning.

The fire erupted just before 1:30 a.m. in a large, one-story building at the intersection of East Central and South Main streets, fire officials said. Sixteen area departments battled the blaze and three firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Fire officials are still investigating the cause, but believe the fire began in a Chinese restaurant.

Nancy Kelly, the owner of a dance studio in the building, said she was in shock as she watched her beloved business go up in flames.

“We’ll find a spot. I have kids that love me and I love them and we’ll find another spot if that one isn’t useable,” Kelly told 7NEWS at the scene.

Another owner said, “I’m lost for words … We just have to keep our fingers crossed.”

Black smoke and heavy fire billowed from the century-old building for hours, causing the roof to collapse

“The roof started to collapse and it kept the fire down, so the fire was burning underneath the roof and aerials couldn’t get to the fire,” Natick Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Dow said at the scene.

Dow says firefighters had to frequently rotate in and out of the building due to the extreme heat.

“Around 80 degrees and heavy humidity, that’s why we went to so many alarms,” he said. “These guys had to operate on air the whole time. The caused us to go through a lot of air bottles quickly. Once they go through the air bottles, we send them to rehab and bring another crew in.”

The entire building was deemed a total loss and will have to be torn down to the ground.

Police are urging motorists to avoid the area through the evening commute.

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