Flea market fire smolders in West Humboldt Park

Thursday, March 10, 2016
Flea market fire smolders in West Humboldt Park
A massive fire broke out at a flea market in Chicago's West Humboldt Park neighborhood

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Fire crews were still on the scene early Wednesday of a West Humboldt Park flea market where a massive fire broke out nearly 24 hours earlier.

The fire continued to smolder more than 24 hours after it started. It could take several days to determine the cause and origin of the fire, officials said.

PHOTOS: Flea market fire in West Humboldt Park

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The fire continues to smolder Wednesday morning.

Flames were first spotted at the Buyers Flea Market around 9:45 a.m. Tuesday. Fire tore through quickly, causing the roof to collapse. Hundreds of cars were parked on the roof. They were swallowed up as it gave way.

WATCH: Vehicle collapses into building

Fire officials said no one was injured in the fire, but many people lost their livings. Many immigrant families - many from Mexico - swapped toys, party dresses, sold jewelry and ran food stands at the flea market.

"All my future is there. My retirement is there. Everything is there and now it's gone," said Marilu Gianni, a vendor.

Across the street from the burnt building on Tuesday, vendors gathered around the flea market's business office door waiting for answers from the owner. Leonard Kraus, 85, eventually came out after returning Tuesday from Florida.

"All I can tell these people is I'm gonna rebuild the place, I'll spend millions of dollars doing it, I'm trying to take care of them because they are my friends," he said.

Kraus has already hired round-the-clock security and put up fencing around the property.

But the 300-plus vendors that support families on the merchandise they sell every weekend want more than just a promise to rebuild.

"He's sincere he is going to rebuild, but help us economically? I don't think so," Gianni said.

Most vendors didn't have insurance. They claim coverage was difficult and very expensive to get because the flea market had several code violations, something Kraus denies. Vendors hope the owner's insurance can cover some of their losses, but Kraus says don't hold out any hope for that. He says the fire devastated his family as well.

"I have three son-in-laws, four daughters, grandchildren that all depend on this business," he said.

So does vendor Ara Alvarez, a single mother of two kids.

"I'm confused, sad, worried for my family, kids," she said.

A fire broke out Tuesday morning at the Buyers Flea Market, a large indoor-outdoor flea market in West Humboldt Park, creating black billowing smoke that can be seen from miles away.

Located at 4545 West Division, the market's website says that it's "Chicagoland's largest indoor/outdoor flea market," which opened its doors 30 years ago.

The Department of Buildings inspected the structure back in 2014. There were only three minor violations.