Flames caused heavy damage to the Furniture Ranch as well as to an adjoining FEMA facility. The fire also caused some damage and startled students at J&J Hair Design.
"All of a sudden, I came out and there was just smoke, coming through the building, so I got all the students out. So we were waiting out in the cold to find out what really happened," said J&J Hair Design College Director Vicki Gatheright.
It was a typical work day for Vicki Gatheright and her students. That is, until a fire broke out at the Furniture Ranch next door just before 3 p.m.
"Apparently, the employees and the tenant were inside when the fire began. It was a fully engulfed fire while they were still in there. It started in the back of the building somewhere. I don't think there were any boxes around, but they might have had a little small heater that caught fire to something that was close," said Margaret Jean Kalif, part owner of the building complex.
An employee of the furniture store was taken to the hospital for possible smoke inhalation. Everyone else, including students at the hair design college next door, managed to escape without injury.
"A lot of the students were working on clients. Some of them were working on each other, just a typical day, a slow Tuesday, pretty slow. Just never thought anything like this would happen this time of day," Gatheright said.
The college, which withstood Hurricane Katrina, sustained smoke damage, as well as the FEMA facility located in the same building. The fire extensively damaged the Furniture Ranch.
"We had just completed extensive renovations for the Furniture Ranch because they wanted to expand. We just finished last week," Kalif said. "It is unfortunate, but you know, that seems to be what goes on down here now."
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause.