Cause of Sandstone Gardens fire undetermined

A jumble of rubble is all that is left of the Sandstone Gardens business in the wake of an early morning fire in November at its location off of Interstate 44 near Loma Linda. A state investigator's report has found that the cause of the fire could not be determined.GLOBE FILE

A state investigator has reported that damage was such in the November fire at the Sandstone Gardens business that a cause of the blaze could not be determined.

Owners Max and Vicki Carr had been unable to determine whether they could reestablish a business at the time of the report, though they told the investigator they would like to if they could.

The business, located at 2826 Douglas Fir Road facing Interstate 44, was considered an area landmark. It sold garden statuary, decor and gifts. It also featured a restaurant. Designed in the style of a turn-of-the-century estate, the building had 50,000 square feet of floor space. The business attracted tourists and bus tour groups as well as retail shoppers.

The extent of the Nov. 24 damage to the building was such that an investigator with the Missouri Division of Fire Safety could not establish where the fire started or how it started, according to the report of the agency.

The state investigator, Grant Wheeler, reported that the north side roof and most walls had collapsed, and in part of the building, the concrete floor had collapsed into the basement. That made a thorough examination of the scene impossible, he said.

The frame building covered by stucco was in flames when the Redings Mill firefighters arrived about 2 a.m. at the location, according to the report. Those first arriving firefighters reported that onlookers were lined up on I-44. By then, the fire was already through the top of the three-level building.

The building did not have a fire alarm. When mutual aid departments arrived, there were 16 fire suppression vehicles and 51 firefighters from eight agencies that helped to put down the three-alarm blaze.

In the aftermath, the fire investigator reported that from what he could see in the building's remains, there was heavy damage to the area where the natural gas service was located. There was no fire damage to the electric breaker box, but several breakers were tripped, though there was no identification as to what areas they had served. The investigator also checked a report-form box specifying the status of the case as noncriminal, suggesting no indication of wrongdoing was found.

Firefighters notified the owners of the fire, and they came to the scene from their Table Rock Lake home. When interviewed by the investigator, they said they had closed the business the previous day about 4 p.m. They said the building had sustained two lightning strikes earlier in the year, and they had replaced some damaged breakers and outlets.

The building was constructed in 2004. The couple had 12 employees.

The Carrs told the investigator they did not want to retire yet and would like to restart the business if they could, but they were uncertain if that would be possible.

The report states that the couple did have insurance.

The report estimates the building value at $4.2 million and the inventory in the building at about $1 million.

The Carrs could not be reached for comment.

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