Fire destroys artist's gallery, 200 original paintings

— About 200 original paintings by a well-known regional artist were destroyed Wednesday when a fire swept through his gallery in the historic downtown of this Kansas City suburb.

Flames were shooting out of Gil Rumsey's Gallery when firefighters arrived shortly after the blaze was reported about40 firefighters from several surrounding municipalities worked to keep the three-alarm fire from spreading to attached buildings, said city spokesman Sean Reilly.

One firefighter hurt his hand, but the injury was not serious, Reilly said. While the blaze was brought under control, he said the adjacent buildings sustained some smoke and water damage but no major structural damage.

Rumsey's building, which was built in 1924, was a total loss. It is located across the street from the Clock Tower Plaza, which is the scene of a summer concert series and farmers market.

"I don't feel like an interview," Rumsey said as stood across the street and watched plumes of black smoke billow from the building. "I just lost 200 original paintings and every stick of inventory we had."

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AP Photo

Overland Park Fire Department firefighters discuss their tactics during a fire in the city's historic downtown. A blaze that broke out Wednesday afternoon destroyed the gallery of artist Gil Rumsey, who sold artworks and antiques from the store.

Besides the paintings, the store also sold antiques. When asked how much the store's inventory was worth, he said "a lot more than we had it insured for."

Rumsey grew up near Topeka and graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in art. His popular acrylic paintings feature landscapes, buildings from Kansas and Missouri universities and such Kansas City landmarks as the Country Club Plaza shopping district, Union Station and Liberty Memorial.

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AP Photo

Bystanders crowd the sidewalks as firefighters battle the three-alarm fire in downtown Overland Park. About 200 original paintings by Gil Rumsey, a well-known regional artist, were destroyed Wednesday when a fire swept through his gallery.

Debbie Ashby, owner of Mildred's Coffeehouse, embraced Rumsey when she spotted him standing outside her store. She said Rumsey had owned the burning building, which contained his life's work, for more than two decades.

"He's a fixture down here," she said. "Thank God he's all right."

Firefighters planned to stay overnight to monitor hot spots, but Reilly said the fire was contained. He said fire officials would begin their investigation into the cause today.

The fire was the second major blaze in the city's downtown in the past year. About 10 months ago, Reilly said, a business two buildings down from Rumsey's store went up in flames.

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