Investigation into Garden Ridge fire ramps up

October 13, 2011 3:30:24 PM PDT
Firefighters and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents are back at the scene of a huge fire Thursday just north of The Woodlands. The 3-alarm blaze roared through a Garden Ridge store Wednesday afternoon, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Investigators were on scene trying to figure out what started the fire.

It destroyed the Garden Ridge store on I-45 and Highway 242. On Thursday morning, smoke could be still seen coming from the area. The fire is now officially tapped out.

A fence has gone up around the store's perimeter and the investigation is just now beginning to ramp up.

This used to be one of Garden Ridge's premiere stores. But after Wednesday's raging 3-alarm inferno, all that's left Thursday are smoldering remains.

"It's a beautiful store. I've bought some pots from this place already. It's a nice store and I hate to see this kind of damage in The Woodlands," said resident Herb Dreger.

A national response team with the ATF will assist the Conroe Fire Marshal's Office in the investigation. The teams are made up of two dozen veteran special agents including forensic chemists, explosives experts, engineers and canines. On Friday, they will go through the building to find out where the fire started.

"Once we determine where that area is, we'll start looking for possible causes of the fire. We'll inspect the electrical system, look for any other thing that could have started it -- matches, cigarettes," said Conroe Fire Marshal Mike Legoudes.

Nothing can be ruled out. The engineers will also check the sprinkler system to see if it was working. The ATF was called in because of the sheer size of the fire.

The Conroe Fire Marshal's Office doesn't have the resources to handle it alone.

No one was seriously hurt in the fire. All 23 employees helped customers scramble to safety.

Damage is estimated at $15 million and it looks like the store is a total loss.

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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