A double loss

A smoking frame and hunks of charred aluminum siding were all that was left of the former home of the River City Farmers Market Monday after an early morning fire ravaged the Washington County Fairgrounds’ Rabbit and Poultry Building where the weekly market was held.

An insurance policy will cover the cost of replacing the building, but it will not cover the thousands of dollars of merchandise that was stored in the building by the market’s vendors.

“About everybody kept their stuff in there,” said River City Farmers Market President Gary Smith.

Between 60 to 70 vendors set up shop inside the building every Saturday, selling homemade items such as jewelry, wood working, home furnishings, candles, decorative iron working, and more, said Smith, who had the unfortunate task of calling vendors and informing them of the calamity.

“We have a guy that makes clocks valued at $300 to $400 a piece. I just talked to him and he lost pretty close to $7,000 worth of stuff,” said Smith.

The losses will likely add up to be somewhere in the $100,000 range, he added.

The Marietta Fire Department, Warren Volunteer Fire Department and Devola Volunteer Fire Company responded to the fire around 6:20 a.m. Monday.

Most of the building was aflame by the time Marietta firefighters arrived on scene, said Chief C.W. Durham.

No one was injured and the building was not currently housing animals, said Washington County Fair Board President Paul Barth.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and the state fire marshal has been called, said Durham.

Smith’s wife, Janet, also fielded phone calls Monday morning, and reached out to offer support to fellow vendors.

“The market is like one big family. Everybody has gotten so close, we all suffer for each other,” said Janet.

The Smiths sell plants, herbs, and vegetables at the market and Janet runs Simply Wired, a handmade jewelry business.

“Everything that I currently had made was there. I had four tables full of stuff,” she said.

For some of the vendors, the weekly market was part of their livelihood, she added.

“Without the extra income of the market, there will be a few that are struggling to put food on the table or medicine in the cabinets. My heart really goes out to them,” said Janet.

The market rented the building from the fair board for a weekly rate of $30. The River City Farmers Market will be held Saturday under the grandstands and will continue there until future notice, said Gary.

“Most of them don’t have anything to sell. As far as the crafts go, there is nothing left,” he added.

The fate of a replacement building is yet unclear, added Barth.

“It depends on the insurance,” he said.

Because the county owns the land on which the building is built, the Ohio Revised Code dictates that the Washington County commissioners must insure the building, said Darla Miller, Washington County Director of Human Resources and Safety Loss Control. The building is insured at its replacement value -$230,696-and the county will have to pay a $2,500 deductible, she said.

More will be known about the insurance once a cause of the fire is determined, added Miller.

It is possible that some of the vendors’ personal losses will be covered by their homeowners insurance, said Gary.

“We’re a bunch of very determined folks. I don’t know where we’re going to go from here, but hopefully there’s still going to be a market,” Janet said.