May 7, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---The main building of the South Augusta Flea Market in the 1500 block of Doug Barnard Parkway near the airport went up in flames this morning.
No one was injured, and the other eight buildings in the complex are intact, but the fire completely destroyed the main building. It also spread to nearby woods.
The fire started at around 10:15 this morning, and the giant plumes of smoke rolling over Augusta attracted everyone's attention.
Firefighters battled high winds of up to 30 miles per hour while fighting the blaze at the 700 foot concrete and wood building. Water tankers had to be brought in because there was only one fire hydrant in the area, and it was 2000 feet away.
According to officials, a building of that size built recently would have required a new, closer fire hydrant, but since the building was already standing, it was "grandfathered in" to newer fire codes.
In all, it took three engine companies an hour to put out the fire.
The owner of the building, Dusty Rhodes, is set to appear in court this Thursday (May 10) to answer a number of fire code violations, including the number of exits and the lack of fire alarms.
Click here to read what Mr. Rhodes told News 12 about the violations.
Davis Cheek, a vendor with the flea market, says the building that was destroyed was the largest of the market's nine buildings, but the market will continue to operate, and vendors in other buildings will be open and ready for business this weekend.
The nearby Barnyard Flea Market was not harmed in the fire.
Flights into and out of Augusta Regional Airport were unaffected as the smoke was mainly blowing away from the airport.
Nixon Road and Doug Barnard Parkway between Gordon Highway and Bobby Jones were closed to traffic.
The Augusta Red Cross provided assistance to over 40 firefighters and others affected by the fire.
A cause is unknown, and officials say they're unable to investigate because the area is too hot. We're told we probably won't know what happened until this evening, or, more likely, tomorrow.
Earlier today, the National Weather Service put out a Special Weather Statement indicating critical fire danger conditions were possible.
This isn't the first time a fire has broken out at that same flea market. In November of 2000, firefighters were called out to battle a two-alarm fire late at night. Officials say the fire was smoldering for a long time before the department was called. Doug Barnard Parkway closed down for hours as a result of that fire.
Fire safety tips are available at www.arcaug.org.
News 12 Images:
Photos by News 12 viewer Vinson N. Williford of Augusta: