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Fire sweeps through Riverdale businesses

By Ed Brock

Quinton Langdon points forlornly toward a pile of rubble in the Executive Cuts & Styles barbershop where he has worked for one month.

"My chair was right there," he said.

An early morning fire obliterated the barbershop and damaged several other businesses in the North Clayton Shopping Center on Riverdale Road around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. Nobody was injured and the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Clayton County Fire Department spokeswoman Amy Nix said.

Executive Cuts & Styles owner Stafford D. Mitchell said somebody backed into a gas line that leads to his water heater.

"It was a commercial vehicle," Mitchell said, but he said investigators don't know yet who it was.

Mitchell said there was an explosion during the fire that cracked the front wall of the barbershop, and the fire caused the rear wall to collapse. Firefighters later had to use a piece of heavy construction equipment to tear open the rear wall to get to any remaining hot spots there.

Wednesday afternoon Mitchell, with help from Langdon and friends like customer Charles Williams were trying to salvage what they could from the corner shop that Mitchell had operated since 2002. Light fixtures and cooling ducts dangled from the shattered ceiling and gravel from the roof trickled down a metal sheet of roofing material when the wind blew with a light tinkling sound.

Mitchell isn't sure yet what his insurance company will do.

"We've got to get together and talk about it," Mitchell said.

Next door Nom Som was inspecting damage to his pawn shop, which included some last ceiling tiles and smoke damage.

Initial television news reports all said that it was his shop that had exploded, Som said. The mistake brought him an interesting visit later in the day.

"Three (agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) came in and asked if we had anything with explosives and guns," Som said. "They said they saw it on TV."