KANSAS CITY, Kans. -- Crews battled a three-alarm fire at a furniture store on 633 Kansas Ave. Sunday. First responders say they saw heavy smoke billowing out of Armourdale Furniture when they arrived.
Kansas City Fire Chief John Paul Jones says quick thinking likely saved the rest of the businesses on the block.
Brian Gersh who owns the store says it is normally closed on Sunday, so no staff or customers were inside.
A friend called Gersh to let him know the business was on fire.
“We’ve been in business since 1937,” said Gersh. "My grandfather started it and I am now the third generation running it.”
Workers in the hardware store on the block noticed something wasn’t right around noon on Sunday.
“My aunt first approached me and said 'do you smell something?' And I said 'yeah I do,'” said Lily Eickhoff, whose family owns the Ace Hardware next door to Armourdale.
Smoke began seeping into the hardware store, so staff called 911.
When firefighters arrived they discovered the fire was coming from underneath the floor of the furniture store.
“They were doing some construction, some renovation-type work in the flooring and a fire somehow got initiated,” said Chief Jones.
Crews had to climb into a narrow crawl space to fight the fire.
“It’s kind of a precarious thing having to send them down in there like that. It’s almost like they’re going underwater,” said Chief Jones.
The situation made more dangerous by the construction materials inside the building.
“There are some foam materials down there that are very toxic so we’re taking all the precautions to make sure they get in and out of there in a safe manner,” said Chief Jones.
Despite precautions, one firefighter was injured. While inside the crawl space, he was forced to remove his mask. The firefighter was transported to KU Medical Center for smoke inhalation and later released. Chief Jones says because of all those toxins in the air there was also a concern for Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Gersh says the fire is devastating but knows there will be strong support from the community his family has served for years.
“It’s a bit of a setback but, that’s life," he says "We’ll do the best we can."
26 units responded to the fire. Chief Jones says without all of that manpower, the aftermath on Kansas Avenue would’ve looked very different.
“This fire… this could’ve taken out this whole block,” said Jones, “A lot of things happened really fast, but I will tell you, I’ve never been prouder of these guys.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.