CLIFTON, N.J. (PIX11) — Karl Bauer could only stand and watch as firefighters fought the flames destroying his family’s hard work Wednesday. Several local businesses went up in smoke after a fire destroyed the family-owned building.

The incident brought traffic on Piaget Avenue to a standstill.

“Everything’s destroyed,” Bauer told PIX11 News.

Bauer, the building’s owner, said it was built by his grandfather. The building housed four local stores and restaurants, as well as several offices on the second floor.

Around 3 p.m. Wednesday, part of the building’s top floor caught fire — and spread quickly.

“I got a call that there was a little fire on the roof, so I called some friends of mine that I needed a roof guy right away,” Bauer said. “When I came here and saw the blowing smoke, I said ‘nevermind, we don’t need a roofer.'”

Maggie Chan, who works in a restaurant in the building, said firefighters rushed in to evacuate everyone. She said the incident was “scary.”

“It’s so sad,” she added. “I don’t know if we can still open the restaurant or if I can still work there.”

Firefighters initially tried to fight the flames from inside, but realized quickly that they needed to get out and start being defensive.

“A lot of the fire was in the attic space … and it was difficult to expose,” Clifton Fire Chief Frank Prezioso said. “Fighting the fire from the top rather than the bottom is very difficult.”

Officials don’t have any word on what started the blaze.