Cause of second fire at old Farmers Market under investigation

Fire crews respond to the blaze
Fire crews respond to the blaze
Smoke billows over the condos next to the farmers market
Smoke billows over the condos next to the farmers market

By Logan Smith - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The State Law Enforcement Division is now investigating what caused a warehouse to catch fire at the old South Carolina Farmers Market--for the second time.

The Columbia Fire Chief says SLED agents are assisting with the investigation because it's a state-owned property. Nothing suspicious was found.

Interim Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said the building on the corner of Bluff and National Guard roads caught fire before 3:30pm Tuesday, and continued burning into the night. Heavy, dense smoke from the fire was widespread in Columbia as firefighters used machinery to tear the building's walls down and get to the problem areas.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Environmental Control said the smoke spread to the Congaree River, and hung low over the city due to weather conditions. DHEC monitored the air quality throughout the evening, and a spokesman said there was no indication of a threat to public health.

Luther Nicks lives near the Farmers Market, and was sitting in his living room when he first smelled the smoke. "We looked down towards the farmers market and we seen a real think cloud," said Nicks. "We couldn't hardly breathe, so we run back inside."

The building, which is owned by Senn Bros. produce, previously caught fire on October 25 and suffered $500,000 in damage. That fire was ruled accidental. The building had already been scheduled to be demolished, and had been empty since the farmers market closed in August.

This time, the fire is raising Jenkins' eyebrows. "There's no apparent reason for this building to be burning that we know of, because nobody's supposed to be inside the building," said Jenkins.

Jenkins said firefighters don't currently believe the fire is suspicious, but investigators will determine the exact cause once the fire is extinguished.

In August, the farmers market moved from its location across from Williams-Brice Stadium to Lexington County, on U.S. 321 near interstates 26 and 77. The University of South Carolina bought the Bluff Road site to use for football parking and other events.

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