Fire destroys Gallery Furniture warehouse

May 22, 2009 6:28:32 AM PDT
Fire devastated what's become a Houston landmark Thursday night as the Gallery Furniture warehouse on I-45 North was completely destroyed by flames.[PHOTOS: See images from the blaze]

The fire is believed to have caused between $5 and $10 million dollars in damages.

The fire started around 8:30pm and quickly grew to four alarms. The ceiling and walls of the fully engulfed warehouse collapsed.

"I got a call from one of the guys who said there's a fire back here and I didn't necessarily believe it and I started looking at the cameras and didn't see anything," said owner Jim 'Mattress Mack' McIngvale. "Then I saw the flames in the corner of the warehouse back there where we receive the trucks."

Employees reported hearing something odd in the area near a generator in the warehouse. Several of them grabbed fire extinguishers to try and put out the blaze but the flames spread quickly. A few moments later flames as high as 10 feet were shooting from the roof. At least 150 firefighters responded to the scene, but there was little they could do to save the warehouse.

There were more than 100 people inside the warehouse and showroom when the fire broke out. We're told everyone got out safely. The flames devastated the warehouse, which is 100,000 square feet in size.

The fire did not spread to the showroom. The showroom is detached from the warehouse, but investigators say there is probably some minor smoke and water damage inside.

"The storage area is going to be a total loss. It's full of fuel. It's wood it's paper. It's cloth, things that burn really well," said Houston Fire Department District Chief Tommy Dowdy. "There's not a lot of wind, it's all going straight up, so it shouldn't be an issue as far as anything in the neighborhood of smoke."

"It's hard to watch," said McIngvale. "But I have a lot of faith and I've always had a lot of faith and the good Lord has a plan for us and we're going to be fine and the city of Houston is going to support us and we're going to rebuild and do this all over again."

It took crews about 2 1/2 hours to get the fire under control. Firefighters were still putting out hot spots Friday morning. Investigators will focus a lot of their attention on the area around a generator where the flames were first noticed. They do say as of right now there is nothing suspicious about the fire.

Gallery Furniture is an institution in the city. The store has been at this north Houston location since 1981. McIngvale has a second store on Post Oak.

On the store's website Thursday night was a message that read in part:

    "Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for the Gallery Furniture family after Thursday night's fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire. Gallery Furniture has been damaged, but not defeated."

    -- Mattress Mack

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