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HFD: Art gallery fire being called suspicious

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Arson investigators will try to determine what sparked a big fire at an old Montrose area art gallery.

The art gallery has been empty for several months. The gallery was mostly recently called the Gallerie Mado Chalvet. Just next door is the Agora restaurant, which was spared in this fire, but did sustain minor damage.

The fact that this gallery was empty is just one reason why firefighters say this could be a case of arson. The fire broke out just after 6am. Neighbors tell us they saw smoke coming from the second story. When firefighters arrived on the scene they found flames shooting from the roof.

It took about 60 firefighters less than an hour to put out the fire, sparing neighboring structures, including the Agora Restaurant that just suffered a fire just a few months ago. That along with the fact that this was a vacant building has arson investigators looking into whether it was deliberately set.

Neighbors heard a loud noise just before the fire broke out.

"I just heard a bunch of noise and sparks flying everywhere," said eyewitness Madelaine Dunado . "It was like a big explosion."

"I heard an explosion. I live right around the corner. I just seen smoke coming from the corner of the house," said nearby resident Christopher Butera.

"Being that it's a vacant building and you have a fire in a vacant building that is an immediate call to arson," said Deputy Blake White with the Houston Fire Department. "It's been vacant for what neighbors say for four to five months."

Eyewitness News did attempt to contact the gallery's most recent owner. She is a widow who had run this gallery after her husband passed away last September but her phone number has since been disconnected.

There were no reported injuries. HFD Arson investigators are investigating the cause.

At the noon hour, Westheimer at Dunlavy was still shut down due to the arson investigation. People were being asked to avoid the area if possible.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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