Officials say a massive fire has destroyed five businesses and a Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church in Jasper County.
Firefighters were called at about 3 a.m. Wednesday to a strip mall in Hardeeville just off of exit 5 Highway 17 northbound.
Initially officials said the Mini Bar in the complex was broken into and burglarized, then set on fire to cover up the burglary. The fire quickly spread into the attic and into the other business, since the mall had to no fire breaks or sprinklers inside.
"It ran through the attic space very quickly. [It] spread to the other businesses. It was an older building, with no sprinklers. No firewalls were in place. So the fire spread very quickly. It is suspicious in nature. We do have the state arson investigation team coming in to investigate," said Capt. Morgan, of the Hardeeville Fire Dept.
Miriam De Leon, a church member, said they were getting ready for Christmas services on Saturday and that now they don't have anything.
Several fire crews were called in to help, including Ridgeland, Levy, Pooler and Jasper County. They spent several hours battling the blaze. Crews are working to put out hot spots.
Highway 17 northbound in that area remains shut down. Police are rerouting traffic.
State investigators have been called in to figure out the cause.