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Traffic along Southwest Boulevard near site of three-alarm fire reopens

Investigation begins in cause of furniture store blaze

John E. Ham, public information officer with the ATF Kansas City Field Division, updated the investigation progress into Tuesday's three-alarm blaze at Friday's Only Furniture Outlet on Southwest Boulevard.
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John E. Ham, public information officer with the ATF Kansas City Field Division, updated the investigation progress into Tuesday's three-alarm blaze at Friday's Only Furniture Outlet on Southwest Boulevard.

Federal authorities along with Kansas City fire and police bomb and arson investigators spent Wednesday picking through charred remains and rumble in a search to find out what caused a three-story furniture warehouse to go up in flames.

Investigators have no set no timetable on when they will know what sparked a three-alarm fire that leveled a furniture store Tuesday afternoon.

“There is absolutely nothing to indicate that it was a set fire,” said John Ham, spokesman for the Kansas City office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “We don’t have any evidence that it was a criminal act at this point.”

Fire crews continued to pour large amounts of water on the smoldering remains and other debris. No damage estimates were immediately available.

“We have to look at all of the possibilities and start taking things off the table to determine to the best of our ability what the cause was or what it could have been,” Ham said.

The fire at Friday’s Only Furniture Outlet on Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City on Tuesday afternoon was quickly upgraded to a three-alarm fire moments after crews arrived.

Investigators did not enter the building Tuesday and still have not because of the instability of the brick structure. Instead, they will use aerial trucks to look inside the building in their search for evidence and clues.

“It is still too dangerous, still too big of a collapse risk, and there is still fire burning down below, and the Fire Department is spraying water on that as needed,” Ham said.

The building contained three floors of furniture and other highly combustible materials, which helped fuel the fire.

Investigators want to be able to begin to rule out certain causes and then focus on specific areas where they think the fire may have ignited, Ham said.

On Tuesday, between 90 and 100 firefighters battled the blaze after multiple people dialed 911 to report the fire.

Fire crews took a defensive position and created a collapse zone around the building’s exterior. No one was thought to be inside when the first fire trucks arrived.

Heavy, thick plumes of white, gray and black smoke were visible from as far away as Olathe and Kansas City International Airport. Flames were visible on the third floor of the building and soon breached the roof.

Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi said firefighters are in a defensive mode while fighting three-alarm fire at Friday’s Only Furniture Outlet — on Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City on Tuesday afternoon. Berardi said firefighters also establishe

“A big benefit to us in fires like this is that it happened in the middle of the day in a very populated area,” Ham said. “There were a lot of witnesses, there were a lot of people to interview and a lot of people to talk to, and as investigators that helps us tremendously as we try to figure out what might have happened.”

Glenn E. Rice: 816-234-4341, @GRicekcstar

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb

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