Flames from a north Phoenix fire lit up the sky Thursday, the smoke plume coming from The Ultimate Movers warehouse visible for miles.
The treasured belongings of as many as 60 customers were stacked floor to ceiling inside the moving and storage company near 30th Avenue and Indian School Road.
Phoenix fire Capt. Jonathan Jacobs said there were vintage pieces of furniture, pianos, automobiles and other items inside that are now just charred remains.
Pictures of boats, pool tables, motorcycles and televisions being wrapped and stored are displayed on the company's website.
"The building was a safe air-conditioned environment before the fire. It's a really big dollar loss," Jacobs said.
The damages are estimated to be around $7 million.
Fire investigators at the scene Friday said the blaze appears to be accidental. They said the fire started in an alcove adjacent to the warehouse -- in an area commonly used as an outdoor smoking area by employees.
"They sit there and smoke all day long," said Sam Richardson, fire investigator.
Richardson pointed to cigarette butts and flammable materials found in the area, and said employees admitted to smoking in the area about 20 minutes before the fire began. He said while the cause of the fire is still under investigation, he believes the fire most likely started accidentally -- with a cigarette butt or other smoking material that wasn't extinguished properly.
“I’m in shock, I’m really in shock. I’m shaking,” owner Shlomo Mishali said.
Shlomo Mishali said he sent his workers home early Thursday night because he was preparing to fly out of the country. The fire started soon after everyone had left.
“All my life is here, all my life -- 10 years of working, everything is here,” Mishali said.
More than 100 firefighters poured about 8,000 gallons of water on the blaze from ladder trucks positioned on two sides of the building, containing most of the fire by 10 p.m.
According to Jacobs firefighters were soaking down the area until 5 a.m. Friday.
"The roof caved in and underneath stuff was still burning," Jacobs said.
But they couldn't stop the fire from spreading next door to NG Machine, a company that repairs jet engines.
“At 5:30 p.m. I smelled smoke and saw flames. I thought it was very serious and I had get out as soon as I could,” NG Machine owner Nghiep Nguyen said.
All of Nguyen's machines were destroyed by the fire, but luckily, Nguyen said, he had just renewed his insurance. Nguyen said that he and his insurance agent were let into the building by the chief of investigation to survey the damage early Friday.
Nguyen said it will take at least six months to start over in the space he has leased for the last 13 years. He noted it would have taken much longer if he hadn't grabbed the safe holding all of the company's records when he escaped the flames.
“Now I feel better because now I have this. I contacted my insurance and now they do their job,” Nguyen said.
As for Mishali, his holiday trip to Israel is on hold while he surveys the extent of the damage.
Mishali sat on soot-spotted pavement Friday morning near the building as firefighters took aerial pictures through the collapsed roof for training purposes.
When asked what he plans to do now, he said, “I don’t know. I haven’t even started to think about it. We need to take care of the customers.”
A church on the south end of the building also sustained heavy water damage, Jacobs said.
The Ultimate Movers said about 15 customers' belongings were saved because they were not in the building at the time of the fire. The belongings of nearly 50 families are likely destroyed.
A company representative said customers are asked to email the company at email@example.com. Customers are asked to provide their name, the date of their move, as well as the locations they were moving to and from.
Mishali said the company planned to "take care of everyone."