HOUSTON (AP) ó The owner of a well-known furniture store is vowing the business will survive after a four-alarm fire swept through his 100,000-square-foot warehouse, causing millions and millions of dollars worth of damage.
No one was injured in Thursday's night fire at Gallery Furniture warehouse just off Interstate 45. Significant traffic delays were reported. Owner Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale said the fire began in a corner of the warehouse.
More than 100 people were in the adjacent furniture showroom and the warehouse when the fire broke out but all apparently escaped safely during the evacuation.
"Then I saw the flames in the corner of the warehouse back there where we receive the trucks. Some of the guys tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher. That didn't work, so we called the fire department and they responded very, very quickly," McIngvale told Houston television station KTRK.
He said the ceiling of the warehouse collapsed.
"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.
The cause of the blaze was not immediately known, the Houston Chronicle reported. One employee said the fire may have started around a generator in the warehouse, but that report has not been officially confirmed, Dowdy said.
Carolyn Phillips, Gallery Furniture¬ís director of human resources, told Houston television station KHOU that "millions and millions of dollars" worth of merchandise appeared destroyed.
McIngvale is among Houston¬ís most successful entrepreneurs. He and his wife, Linda, first opened the store at an empty model home park on a weedy lot in 1981, with just $5,000 in hand.
In the early days of Gallery Furniture, McIngvale and his wife slept there to guard their four sofas.
"We¬íve got great people we¬íll make it through this," said McIngvale. "We made it through Hurricane Ike. We¬íre still alive. We can come back and do this tomorrow."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.