Gallery Furniture fire ruled arson

May 28, 2009 2:33:41 PM PDT
One week ago today, Gallery Furniture's flagship warehouse burned down along the North Freeway. Federal investigators have now announced they have determined the fire was intentionally set.[PHOTOS: See images from the blaze]
[READ IT: Jim McIngvale's response to the ATF's findings]

Federal investigators went through the rubble of the Houston retail landmark, looking for clues to what caused the 4-alarm fire. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Fire Arms and Explosives finished its investigation and announced their findings at a news conference.

"After initial assessment, we activated our national response team, which is a group of agents who specialize in arson and explosives investigation," said Chief Robert Elder with the ATF. "Following an extensive scene investigation, we've determined that this fire is an incendiary fire, meaning it was intentionally set."

Agents have explained that in absence of an accidental cause, they have determined it was intentionally set.

The ATF took over the investigation last week and commended the Houston Fire Department on their efforts.

"They responded with over 100 firefighters," said Elder. "They did an outstanding job of preventing that fire from spreading into the main showroom."

For the moment, investigators won't discuss surveillance video or what or who might have started the fire.

"Someone out there knows what happened that night," said Elder. "And we're going to find them."

Upon learning the news that the fire was intentionally set, Gallery Furniture owner Jim McIngvale gave a statement from his Post Oak store.

"I prayed this would not be the outcome," he said. "We are shocked and stunned at this finding by the ATF and Houston Fire Department, arson department, and all we desire is for the person responsible for this to be caught and brought to justice."

If you know anything about the Gallery Furniture fire, you're asked to call the ATF at 1-888-ATF-FIRE. The ATF's investigation is ongoing. Elder said they've received in excess of 100 leads.

The federal investigators entered the picture just days after fire destroyed Gallery Furniture's warehouse last week. The loss of inventory and the building costs millions. The huge commercial loss is part of the reason the ATF stepped in to help determine the cause.

Yesterday, McIngvale was at Houston City Council to thank firefighters personally for their work.

"Thank you mayor, and thank you the wonderful men and women of the Houston Fire Department for saving our store," he said.

McIngvale became emotional during his speech for obvious reasons. He was grateful they were able to salvage the store's showroom.

ATF agents are interviewing store employees to try to help further the investigation. Stay with ABC13 and abc13.com with the latest on this developing story.

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