‘Piece of the American Dream': Merchandise, Building Destroyed by Massive Blaze at Chicago Flea Market

The fire was reported at a flea market building in the city's West Humboldt Park neighborhood

At least one person was rescued and several cars swallowed as firefighters spent hours battling a blaze at a flea market building in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood Tuesday morning.

The fire started in the 4500 block of West Haddon Avenue, where fire officials said there were reports of people trapped in the northwest side of the building, according to the Chicago Fire Department. 

Ambulances were called to the scene and people were seen on stretchers, but fire officials said no injuries were reported. At least one person was rescued from the building, the department said. 

By 11:30 a.m., all firefighters were ordered out of the building and the blaze had been upgraded to a 4-alarm fire. Shortly after, a level one hazmat was declared. 

The building's roof deck collapsed in the blaze, engulfing at least seven parked cars as the flames intensified. The fire department said the vehicles and other flammable items inside the property prompted firefighters to "surround and drown" the building. 

Just before 2 p.m. it appeared the building would be a "total loss" and all items inside could be destroyed, the department said. 

"The whole building will need to come down," said First Deputy Richard Ford II. 


A sign that read Buyer's Flea Market could be seen enveloped by smoke. The sign claimed the flea market is "Chicagoland's largest."  

According to a security guard at the building, five people were inside at the time the fire started. It was first noticed during a security check at 9 a.m. 

The flea market was not open Tuesday, but dozens of vendors and businesses rushed to the scene, only to watch thousands of dollars in work and merchandise burn to the ground.

Richard Jacobs is a manager of the flea market which has been in his family for years.

"We feel terrible for all our vendors and we're hoping to rebuild if we can and see what happens along the way," Jacobs said. "We're still in shock as much as our vendors are."

Jacobs added that "They know that they should have insurance and we have made that clear. Those who did I'm happy about, those who didn't I feel bad about."

"It's my piece of the American Dream, owning my own business," said vendor Duwayne Randolph. "Just to watch it burn up like this... what more can I say."

Fire officials said it will take "several days" to determine what caused the fire. 

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