ATF investigates cause of Texas Roadhouse fire in Belton

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BELTON, Mo. -- Investigators are working to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed a restaurant overnight. The Texas Roadhouse was expected to open later this spring.

Drivers along Interstate 49 reported the fire after seeing smoke and flames coming from the building about 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

A FOX 4 viewer shot cellphone video of the fire.

Firefighters said they never went inside the building, battling the blaze from defensive positions outside.

According to the fire chief, the restaurant was about 80 percent complete and just months away from opening. Chief Norman Larkey called in the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate because of the high loss: $1.5 million dollars in damages.

"We’ve actually had four fires in the last six or seven weeks, all in commercial buildings," Larkey said. "Right now none of them are connected. They are all accidental, depending on what happens here. It’s kind of weird but not unusual, but weird."

The state fire marshal also will help determine the cause of the fire. A specially trained dog that can sniff out accelerants used to start fires, will help determine if this may have been deliberately set.

There's no pavement around the restaurant, and that posed a challenge for firefighters who had to park their equipment along they road and drag hoses quite a distance through wet, muddy conditions.