Traders at Brixton Market whose goods went up in flames last weekend say they have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds as a result.
The fire started in an alleyway which was being used as a storage area for traders in Electric Lane, Brixton on Saturday at around 9am,
It burned through at least half a dozen traders’ stock and about 15 traders no longer have anywhere to store goods which is disrupting their businesses.
The blaze required 100 firefighters on the scene and London Fire Brigade told the South London Press it believes the fire was accidental but an exact cause has not yet been found.
A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said: “The cause of the fire on Electric Lane near Brixton Market is believed to have been accidental. However, due to the extent of the damage, fire investigators have recorded the exact cause as undetermined.”
At a meeting in Brixton this week, traders talked of the “loss and grief” the fire caused, with uncertainty hanging in the air for their businesses and the future of the market itself.
John Gordon, chairman of the Brixton Market Traders’ Federation and market trader of 40 years, said about £250,000 could have been lost from the fire, and the loss of earnings from traders unable to use the storage space would take it higher.
“How can you trade if you have nothing to sell?” Mr Gordan said. “All these traders were originally refugees, and their businesses were their only means of supporting their young families, elderly parents and in some cases their extended families in their home countries.”
One of the affected traders, Ruth Osei, who sells custom jewellery, said she has not been able to sleep since the night of the fire and claims she has lost about £30,000 as a result.
She said: “All of my stuff burned. I had three cages in the storage area and they all burned. I order my jewellery from overseas and it will take months to get back to where I was.
“In just one night I lost everything.”
Ms Osei said that on a good day she can earn £400 but is no longer able to trade.
She added she does not know what she will do now.
Imam Ali Sultan has been selling men’s clothing in the market since 2008.
He said: “I feel useless. I can do nothing for my wife and four children. They need me but I have no business as I have no stock.”
Another trader, Owen Haughton, who runs Adissa Herbal, said he left Brixton Market just before hearing there was a fire and felt lucky not to be caught in it.
He said: “I’m devastated. I lost every single thing in my stall. That [money] is what sends my son to school, that’s what I use to eat.
“I’m sad for all my fellow traders, I know it’s everyone’s livelihood. We all mourn together.
“The future is vague. I don’t know how to bounce back from this. I hope the council has sympathy and looks deep to find grants or loans to help us.”
Lambeth council has told traders it would not charge them rent for the period they are affected and have pledged to ask Network Rail to provide temporary storage space next to Brixton railway station.
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “The fire has had a serious impact on traders and we have been working hard to support them throughout, with council officers on the scene and liaising with the London Fire Brigade since the incident happened on Saturday.
“That work includes identifying the owners of the storage unit where the fire happened, holding meetings with traders, assessing the impact on trade, and we are reviewing what financial support can be provided by the council and through other channels.
“We are currently identifying new storage options for traders.
“We continue to work with the traders and other organisations including the local business district, the Brixton BID, to help address the current situation and help those with pitches at Brixton Market get through this difficult period.”
There is now mounting concern that the contents stored in the alley may not be covered by the building insurance, and there was no content insurance in place.
It is still unclear who owned the section of land where the fire took place, which is confusing insurance matters and Lambeth council have not been able to confirm.
Some of the affected traders paid the Brixton Market Traders Federation to use the storage space but it said it did not take out extra insurance.
Mr Gordon said: “If we had taken out the insurance the rent would have been too high for them [traders] to pay, times are hard and they want to pay as little as possible.
“We [Brixton Market Traders Federation] don’t do storage, we just continued an arrangement that was in place before.”
A crowdfunder has been set up to support the traders whose businesses have been destroyed and has almost hit its £20,000 target after just two days.
The money will go directly to traders through the Brixton Market Traders’ Federation to enable the traders to replace their stock.
You can donate to the Brixton market traders crowdfunder by going to https://gofund.me/a1b1b572
Pictured top: The affected traders gather outside where the blaze took place Picture: Saja Shaheen
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