OKLAHOMA CITY – It was a heart wrenching wake up call for business owners in Stockyards City.
“I said, ‘J.R. how you feeling? How you get along?’ He said, ‘I’m great!’ I said, ‘So the fire hasn’t stressed you out?’ ‘What fire?’ ‘J.R., the store’s on fire. You need to turn the TV on and watch it,” said Dan Jordan, a former coworker and friend of Bentley-Gafford.
More than 70 firefighters battled a massive blaze in Stockyards City for hours on Thursday morning, all in an effort to save two businesses that meant so much to this tight-knit community.
While fighting the fire, one firefighter was taken to the hospital after falling on the ice.
Despite their efforts, Oklahoma Native Art and Bentley-Gafford Leather Goods Company were destroyed in the four-alarm blaze.
“Everybody is just like one big family…and you know everybody feels the pain,” said Yolanda White-Antelope, owner of Oklahoma Native Art.
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, which was across the street from the flames, released a statement saying their thoughts and prayers with those affected by the fire.
“The Cattlemen’s family is deeply saddened by the loss of three businesses in our historic Stockyards City this morning. The Bentley-Gafford store was a stockyards staple for decades, giving customers friendly, personalized service they’ve come to expect at any business here in the stockyards. The Oklahoma Native Art & Jewelry was an important cultural part in our community with specialty jewelry and unique art from Native American tribes across the country. Our good friend and artist, Jack Wells, who has been around the stockyards for about 50 years, lost hundreds of his unique pieces in the fire. However, from the beginning over a hundred years ago, we have been a supporting community of goods and services and we are gathering around the owners of these businesses – we’re here for each other. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the Oklahoma City firefighter hurt while fighting this fire.” – Dick Stubbs, Owner of Cattlemen’s Steakhouse.
This is the third time White-Antelope has lost her art gallery.
The first time, it was destroyed in the Murrah Federal Building bombing.
She moved the gallery to Shawnee, but that also burned down in another fire.
“It’s hard to watch, you know, your dreams go up in flames,” White-Antelope said.
Fire crews fought those flames for several hours, attempting to save the 100-year-old building and the priceless items inside it.
“They had a lot of original beautiful paintings and art. I mean, that’s life, that’s their lives,” Alice Wells said.
Well’s husband, Jack, lost hundreds of his paintings that were on exhibit at the saddle shop.
“There was a lot of original paintings that were in there that are irreplaceable,” Alice Wells said.
Authorities say saddles that were worth $2,000 to $6,000 a piece are now just black ash.
“I'll come back, I always come back, and I would like to rebuild, but for now, I don't know," White-Antelope said.
Firefighters are still determining what caused the fire.
Large structure fire in the 1300 block of S. Agnew. Please avoid the area.
— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) March 5, 2015
— Red Cross Oklahoma (@RedCrossOK) March 5, 2015
According to the Oklahoma City Fire Department, the cause of the blaze has not been determined but is not considered suspicious.
It is estimated that the fire caused about $425,240 in damage.