I-Team uncovers past violations at flea market building

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The ABC I-Team investigates the history of Buyer Flea Market building and searches city inspection records for clues as to what happened Tuesday. (WLS)

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
The ABC I-Team investigates the history of Buyers Flea Market building and searches city inspection records for clues as to what happened Tuesday and whether there have been previous problems.

If this fire had happened on a weekend, the Buyers Flea Market would have been jammed with people. As it was today the space was full of merchandise, food and even some animals that are sold there on weekends; some of the contents flammable and they went up fast.

The I-Team has been looking at city inspection records for the property, the most recent was nearly two years ago.

The flea market is a hive of activity on weekends with patrons parking on the roof of the 30,000 square foot building, The roof collapsed as a fire started on the south side of building, taking with it cars on top and consuming the contents inside.

What burned? A hodge-podge of sales booths-from toys to party dresses, food stands and jewelry stores, women's underwear, one double-wide booth selling car grills, even a barber shop.

According to city records there was a 2009 inspection here that resulted in numerous violations and an order from authorities concerning a possible fire hazard. "Propane stored in south garage for lift equipment" stated city inspectors at the time.

"Approximately 10 tenants using for (jewelry repair) open flames," with large tanks in the unit noted as a fire/safety hazard-that were ordered removed. Although acetylene seems to have been misspelled by city employees, tonight a Building Department spokesperson says that since the fire hazard wasn't noted two years in the last inspection, it must not have been an issue.

No word from the city why this property hasn't been inspected since 2014.

Trains going by the building even as the fired raged across a short field. Two trains, opposite directions, both with tankers known as Dot-111's and according to the onboard hazard placards one of them was carrying crude oil. Recently crude oil tankers have been the subject of federal and local investigations after a series of fiery explosions following derailments.

A fire department spokesman was asked if rail tracks near the fire were a problem.

"Not really, we have to let them know that there is a fire near the tracks," said Deputy District Chief Joe Roccasalva.

We spoke with the rail line that operates those tracks near the fire scene. We were told that one train moved through the zone-but contained nothing dangerous. The official we spoke to knew nothing of crude oil tank cars being part of a train on their tracks.

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