A fire has extensively damaged Scott's Nursery Ltd., a landmark gardening centre about 10 kilometres southeast of Fredericton.

The fire, which started about 3 p.m. AT, destroyed the company's soil room and a warehouse that housed a lunchroom and offices. 

Thick black smoke billowing from the nursery was visible several kilometres away from its location in Lincoln.

All employees were evacuated and police closed part of Lincoln Road, forcing area residents returning from work to walk to their homes. But no homes were evacuated.

Scott's owner, George Scott, a well-known gardening expert, was on vacation in Newfoundland with his children. But his wife, Jeanette Scott, was in her home when the fire started. She told CBC News there was an explosion in the soil room of the greenhouse.

Through tears, she described the damage to the third-generation family business as devastating. She said hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory had been lost.

Nursery co-owner Jim Scott, George Scott's brother, said he felt sick as he watched the fire.

Firefighters did manage to rescue Scott's two pet iguanas.

Fredericton and Oromocto fire departments brought the blaze under control as dozens of area residents and passersby looked on. Some firefighters had to be treated for smoke inhalation. Ambulances were also on the scene.

Scott's greenhouses, plant inventory, fertilizers and bulk soils cover more than two hectares.