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Fire tears through flea market in Pendergrass
Blaze destroys 60 booths; manager expects business to be open this weekend
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Jefferson Police Detective Chris Foster, right, and State Fire Marshall Investigator Jerry Parrish walk past the burned out section of the Pendergrass Flea Market Sunday. - photo by Tom Reed

At a glance

Here are a few details about the Pendergrass Flea Market:

What: 250,000 square feet of shopping space, including 500 booths
Where: 5641 U.S. 129 North, Jefferson
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Contact: 706-693-4466 or www.pendflea.com

JEFFERSON — Fire struck the popular Pendergrass Flea Market in Jackson County overnight Sunday, but the business manager said he expects to be back in operation by this weekend.

"It's shocking," Ernest Espinel said of the fire, "but we're blessed that the damage was minimal. This is a big place. We're thankful the damage was just in one place."

The Jefferson Fire Department got the call about 12:50 a.m. When firefighters arrived, they saw fire shooting through the roof of the back section of the complex at 5641 U.S. 129 North, Capt. Darrell Chaisson said.

No one was injured in the blaze, which took two hours to put out, Chaisson said.

The market was closed Sunday, as Jefferson firefighters and other officials were still on the scene.

Jerry Parrish, an investigator with the state fire marshal's office, was one of those present. He deferred questions to spokesman Matt Killgalian, who couldn't be reached for comment.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire. Also, Chaisson said a dollar estimate on the damage isn't yet known.

The area that was struck contains the market's Third and Fourth east avenues. The market is laid out like a grid of streets with a main aisle running through the center of the building and "avenues" crossing it from the east and west.

The market also features sections that have been added through its 18 years.

Each section of the market features overhead doors that roll down automatically when the temperature reaches a certain degree, Chaisson said.

"The fire doors saved a lot of damage. The fire could have spread into other areas of the flea market," he said.

The section that was destroyed contained about 60 booths. The market has about 500 booths total.

Espinel said he was grateful the fire didn't start during business hours. About 15,000 people go through the flea market on a typical weekend.

Activity is so brisk the flea market is looking at plans to add more parking and a 21,000-square-foot wing, he added.

Immediate plans, however, will focus on the burned section.

The business will contact a fire restoration company today to begin replacement of the damaged section.

Espinel said vendors will be able to work inside the unfazed portion of the structure beginning today.

A music festival and rodeo should go on as planned this weekend, he added.

The flea market, which is close to Interstate 85, is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

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