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Fire damages downtown Jonesboro building

Fire investigators were working –– in the wee hours of Saturday morning –– to determine the cause of a blaze that resulted in extensive damage to the main administrative building of a special-needs agency in downtown Jonesboro.

The fire broke out around 11:30 p.m., Friday, at the building, which houses the Clayton Center, located at 112 Broad St., according to Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Battalion Chief Landry Merkison.

As of 1 a.m., Saturday, Battalion Chief Dana Lee said it appeared that no one was in the building at the time the fire broke out, and no injuries were reported.

However, at that time, firefighters were still searching the structure as smoke continued to billow from open doors, in the front and rear of the facility.

Elaine Stevens, transportation manager for the Clayton Center, was on the scene. "I'm just devastated. I don't know what to think," Stevens said.

"We service the mentally and physically challenged here in Clayton County, and surrounding areas," she said.

Stevens, who said she has been with the agency for 28 years, said the Clayton Center is a non-profit, and for-profit, agency with several locations around the county.

"I'm as curious as anybody else as to what happened, and how it [the fire] started," she said.

The agency, which is open from 8 a.m., to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, Stevens said, was closed at the time the fire was reported.

Batallion Chief Merkison said investigators did not yet have information as to a possible cause of the blaze, or whether arson was suspected, as of early Saturday morning.

The Clayton Center is located in the same complex as the Jonesboro Fire House Museum and Community Center, and across the parking lot from the Clayton News Daily.

"It [the fire] was held to the first floor of the original building," said Battalion Chief Lee.

He said there was some smoke damage to an adjoining building, but there was no damage to the Fire House Museum.