Monday, April 30, 2007

Fire at Eastern Market

This is not a bird or conservation story but a local one. Last night an intense fire tore through Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. The market will be shut down for the near future though Mayor Fenty promises that the city will restore it.

It took 160 District firefighters two hours to extinguish the blaze, which tore through the roof and all but demolished the collection of meat, produce and other shops popular with neighborhood residents and throughout the region.

Fire chief Dennis L. Rubin said investigators believe the fire began in a dumpster behind the market, then spread to the building itself. Roads around the market, at 7th St. between C and D streets SE, were closed during the morning rush hour, the building still smoldering from the fire....

Lawrence Schultz, assistant fire chief, said that 75 precent of the structure was damaged but that the "heavy timber construction" kept the bones of the building intact. "The overall structural is in really good shape," he said.
I have used this market regularly since I moved downtown, so the fire came as a shock. Eastern Market is an historic building, the last remaining of four markets built by the city in the nineteenth century. In recent years the building has hosted small scale vendors who sell local meat and produce. Open-air stalls adjacent to the building have hosted a farmers' market, craft dealers and a flea market. Since the reconstruction is likely to take some time, I hope that the city can find an alternative to keep the farmers' market going.

Update: Fenty plans to rebuild both Eastern Market and the Georgetown Library. DCBlogs rounds up reactions from local bloggers.