Update, 8:50 p.m.: Work on the roof of the former Regent Diner contributed to a fire that caused the Howell Police Department to shut down a portion of Route 9 during Friday's rush hour traffic.
Sgt. Rizzo of the Howell Police Department reported that at approximately 6:30 p.m. Stevens Roofing Company continued its second day of working on the roof of the Athena Diner when the fire started. The fire continued to go through the kitchen and the restaurant through the walls.
There were no injuries reported as a result of the fire with all employees and customers able to get out of the restaurant safely.
The Southard, Freewood Acres, Ramtown, Adelphia and Squankum Fire Departments all responded to the scene as did the Howell and Ramtown First Aid Squads. The investigation is being conducted by the Howell Township Fire Bureau and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Fire Marshall's Office.
Update, 7 p.m.: Route 9 South is now open, the Howell Police Department reported on its Facebook page.
Howell police closed Route 9 in the area of Athena Diner as firefighters battle a blaze at the restaurant.
A car accident on Route 9 near West Farms Road at 5 p.m. added to traffic problems.
Detective Sergeant Eileen Dodd said drivers should expect lengthy delays and avoid Route 9 in Howell near the Lakewood border. Police from Howell and Lakewood had blocked the roadway near the Lakewood border and a large group of trucks had blocked the road on the other end.
With Route 9 blocked off side roads like Kent Road became even more congested during the Route 9 rush hour period.
Trucks from the Southard Fire Department, the Ramtown Fire Department, and Jackson Fire Department responded to the scene.
This is a developing storyline. Howell Patch will have more information as it becomes available.