Fire rips through Garden Ridge store

Huge fire burning at Garden Ridge Pottery store in Conroe area
October 13, 2011 8:24:54 AM PDT
A massive fire is finally under control after burning at a Garden Ridge store on I-45 south in the Conroe area for nearly three hours.

The blaze broke out just after noon Wednesday at the crafting and home decorating retail chain along I-45 south, just north of FM 242 in Montgomery County. The fire quickly went to 3 alarms.

Shortly before 5pm, authorities reopened the southbound feeder road of I-45, which was shut down during the height of the fire.

From the bird's eye view of SkyEye 13 HD, you could see the scope of the damage caused by the flames.

The raging inferno burned out of control at the store. Thick black smoke poured from the building as firefighters from at least five different departments attacked the flames, using three pumper trucks.

"It started out small. You thought they'd have it out. As soon as things started exploding in it, you could hear the roof crushing in," said eyewitness Jim Watson.

All 23 employees were able to safely get out of the building. One person was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

"This is a devastating day for us. This one of our premiere stores. We love this location and we're dedicated to rebuilding here and keeping a store in this market," said Tom O'Neal with Garden Ridge.

Before they can rebuild, investigators have to find out what caused the fire. They believe the blaze started somewhere near the center of the store and spread fast. They say the store is equipped with a sprinkler system.

"Our annual fire inspection was done within the last couple of months and at that point the sprinkler system had its proper documentation and inspected and was up and operating properly," said Conroe Fire Marshal Mike Legoudes.

It was too risky to bring firefighters inside. Investigators say there was a danger of walls collapsing or even the roof.

Fire crews on the front lines also battled low water pressure because so much water was being used to fight this fire at one time.

Damage is estimated to be at $15 million.

We're told a national response team for the ATF is headed here to investigate.

If you caught photos or video of this event, you can upload them at iWitness.abc13.com or email them to news@abc13.com.


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