|Updated: 3/07/2012 10:25 pm
||Published: 3/07/2012 2:21 pm
LITTLE ROCK, AR – A Little Rock business of 19 years is destroyed by fire. Arkansas’ first Party City, a discount party supply store, went up in smoke Wednesday afternoon, sending up a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles around.
There were 4 employees and about 15 customers inside the store when the fire started. All were able to get out of the store safely.
"My knees are shaking, my hands are shaking," said employee Nicole Stehle. "There was a little bitty fire, so I ran back and tried to get someone to help me with a fire extinguisher, but when I went back there was smoke everywhere."
Employees say they're glad firefighters arrived so quickly. "It felt like 10 hours, but they actually got here in less than four minutes, so that was pretty impressive," said Stehle.
Firefighters worked quickly to contain the fire, blocking Rodney Parham for hours while they poured water into the building.
“This building, because of the flammable content, got going very fast. The employees had 5 minutes to get out before it was fully involved," said Captian Randy Hickmon with the Little Rock Fire Department.
Party City's owner, Ted Mitchell, tells Fox 16 that the fire may have been caused by the heating and A/C unit. He estimates $500,000 in inventory is lost and $1.5 million in damage was done to the building.
Now, the building is boarded up. Firefighters say they are worried that the roof will collapse or that the walls will cave in. Restoration crews say a job like this could take several months.
"What we'll do is go in, access the damage, work with owners and the insurance company to evaluate the scope of the work piece by piece,” says Britt Stewart with the Metro Disaster Specialists.
Mitchell says it may take a year for the store to reopen. Until then, employees will either begin working at the store in North Little Rock or insurance money will cover the costs of paying them.