The fire that destroyed the Boise International Market late Saturday began in the front section of the market, according to Romeo Gervais, deputy chief and fire marshal for the Boise Fire Department.
The building, in the middle of strip mall near Franklin and Curtis roads, was fully engulfed when firefighters from a station a half mile away arrived. They called a second alarm.
The fire gutted the building, incinerating everything inside.
The multicultural market was a business incubator for 20 businesses, and most of the vendors are refugees. A fund-raising effort to help those refugees deal with their expenses had raised more than $37,000 by Tuesday evening.
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Fire investigators were on the scene early Sunday and determined that the fire started accidentally in or near a garbage can in the coffee shop area, Gervais said.
“Everything we have tells us there’s nothing suspicious about the fire,” he said.
The investigation takes into account a variety of things, including burn patterns, area of damage, witness reports and even video footage. Gervais said there was at least one camera inside the building, and it transmitted to an off-site location.
“We’ve looked at the video from the time the fire started,” he said. “It doesn’t show any people.”
It’s unclear how long the fire was burning before passersby called 911. The market closed at 9 p.m. every day, according to its website. The fire was reported at 11:45 p.m. Saturday.
Fire officials are done with the building, but they have not finished their investigation, Gervais said: “We’re still talking to different people and trying to pull more of the video.”
It’s not uncommon for investigators to review security video from businesses in the area of a fire. But fires often happen at night — when there’s little or no light — so video footage isn’t always helpful.
VENDORS ‘FLOORED’ BY GENEROSITY
Board members for the Boise International Market, Bench residents and local restaurant owners created a GoFundMe page to help the vendors get back on their feet. It’s called the International Market Family Fund. By 7 p.m. Tuesday, 609 people had contributed $37,490 toward the fund’s $50,000 goal.
And by Thursday morning, community members will have a more traditional way to contribute to the cause: making a donation to the International Market Family Fund at any branch of Idaho Central Credit Union. Traci Jennings, co-coordinator of the fund, said organizers plan to finish establishing the account Wednesday afternoon to accept tax-deductible donations.
“I already have a couple of checks” to deposit, Jennings said Tuesday evening.
She and Kari Randel, who launched the GoFundMe page, both said they are astounded by how many people are pitching in to help market vendors.
“The vendors are floored,” Jennings said. “They’re so grateful and happy that people care.”
Randel printed out a list of donors and some of their encouraging comments and posted them at the market site Tuesday.
A board of trustees is being established to manage the fund and is taking requests from vendors who need help meeting their expenses, Randel said. A meeting is set for Friday
The first distributions will meet emergency needs for paying bills or rent, buying food or medicine, or “anything these people need to stay afloat,” she said. “Some vendors were more financially devastated than others.”
Once emergency needs are met, Randel said, the board will likely distribute the remaining funds evenly among the vendors “so everyone has a stipend to at least rebuild their inventory.”
Many vendors are eager to set up shop again, she said, but it is unclear whether the market will be rebuilt. Efforts to reach owners Lori Porreca and Miguel Gaddi Tuesday about future plans were unsuccessful.