Vendors reeling from flea market fire losses

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May 8, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The agencies investigating the fire at the South Augusta Flea Market met this afternoon to go through the evidence they've found. That includes the Augusta Fire Department, ATF, and state fire marshals.

The evidence includes pictures and blueprints of the site.

It's been a big day for many of the vendors, who went out to the scene today only to find they lost everything. Their stores, their memories, their livelihoods up in smoke.

Ashes are all that's left of June Lichty and her husband's used books, which they sold for 18 years.

"I was out buying more things to bring, and I got a phone call," June said. "They said the flea market is on fire. And all I could think about is 'oh my God, we're all out of work'."

Like many vendors, June does not have renters' insurance, which means it's a total loss. She says even if they did have insurance, a lot of things at the market are antique, meaning they can't be replaced.

"I hate to even look at it. It's sad," said vendor Frank Parrish.

Stacey Stanley says the charred remains hold memories from part of her childhood.

"This is where I learned how to deal with people, how to deal with money, how to be a better human being," she said of the destroyed 700 foot building.

She plans to be here Saturday when other vendors like Helen Usry are back in business. The blaze didn't even touch almost a dozen buildings, including the one where Helen sets up shop.

"I'm lucky I still have mine," Helen said. "The good Lord was with me."

But she's sorry for the loss many others have suffered, including 10,000 books from June's shop.

June says she plans to move to one of the other shops.

A tire shop on the premises is open for business now. The others will open Saturday. Right now this entire area is blocked off as the fire department, state fire marshals, and ATF investigate the cause of the fire.

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