Looking for a cause of the Gallery fire

May 22, 2009 2:56:07 PM PDT
An iconic local businessman is down but not out. Investigators have been on the scene of what used to be the Gallery Furniture warehouse, trying to determine the cause of Thursday night's heartbreaking fire. [PHOTOS: See images from the blaze]

The blaze lit up the night sky for hours, but fortunately, no one was hurt at the landmark business on I-45 North at between Tidwell and Parker, owned by Houston icon Jim 'Mattress Mack' McIngvale. The fire is believed to have caused between $5 and $10 million in damages.

On Friday, around 20 ATF agents were on site providing technical assistance, and HFD arson investigators continued to try to nail down the cause of the fire.

"Looks like a plane crashed over there, it was so big, so massive of a fire," said nearby resident Alan Massey.

Massey said the fire was so intense that the hair on his arm was on end. He was watching from his home across the street.

"It didn't even look real," he said.

Twelve hours later, Massey was still in disbelief.

Under scrutiny was a generator that was running Thursday night. Employees said it was making a strange noise, but investigators aren't so sure.

"That may or may not be an issue," said HFD District Chief Tommy Dowdy. "I've heard a couple of stories, one of the stories is there were transformers inside close to the area where they do some Scotch-guarding. That's a high voltage issue and if it fails, you're going to have issues with it."

It was around 8:40 Thursday night when flames started ripping through the warehouse.

"The building did what it would normally do," said HFD District Chief Tommy Dowdy. "It folded in on itself."

It took more than 100 firefighters more than two and a half hours to get the blaze under control.

"It's unfortunate that it happened," said employee Aaron Garrett. "But you know, we're going to rebuild."

Garrett has worked for Mattress Mack for three years. Friday morning, he reported to work at his normal time. But he says his attitude is different and when he put on his T-shirt with the infamous words, 'Saves You $$$,' he felt more pride in his company than he ever did before.

"Business doesn't stop. We're going to be at Post Oak today and business does continue," he said. "This doesn't stop anything. Business is still up and coming today and we're still moving and this is a small dilemma."

Garrett was one of about 30 to 40 employees who arrived at the business at 7am. They immediately started checking the delivery trucks, which contained furniture that was going to be going out. Some trucks were damaged, so there could be some furniture that won't go out.

"It's hard to watch," said McIngvale Thursday night. "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."

Friday afternoon, Gallery Furniture announced it had secured a new warehouse in Sugar Land with help from Amegy Bank.

Company background

What started as a $5,000 investment quickly grew to the 100,000 square foot showroom and warehouse. The company now employs more than 300 people. Owner Jim McIngvale is known for sharing his wealth with the community.

Statement from State Rep. Sylvester Turner

"I am heartsick about the fire tonight at Gallery Furniture. Jim McIngvale is a special person, always there for those in need. Whether it's donating furniture to folks with low incomes to raising money to help victims of hurricanes and other disasters, McIngvale is always the first to step forward and help.

"As he has supported the community, I know our community will support him. I hope and pray that he will rebuild this icon of Houston business. We stand with him, his family and his employees."

Statement from Former President George H. W. Bush

"If anyone can overcome this adversity, it is our friends Mack and Linda and their terrific team. Like so many Houstonians, our thoughts -- and continued support -- are with the Gallery Furniture family."

      QUICK HEADLINES | MORE LOCAL | GET NEWS ALERTS
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABC13 SOCIAL NETWORKING
Find us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter | More social networking
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MORE FROM ABC13
ABC13 widget | Most popular stories | Street-level weather
ABC13 wireless | Slideshow archive | Help solve crimes
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Load Comments