Fire destroys man's livelihood, band's aspirations


By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - An early morning fire Thursday destroyed the Gee Street Flea Market and a recording studio for a local band. Officials with the Jonesboro Fire Department told Region 8 News the fire started sometime before 5 a.m. When firefighters arrived, heavy smoke was rolling from the roof of the building. No one was injured in the fire.

"We made an interior attack. We could not locate the fire due to the layout of the interior of the structure. Eventually the fire vented through the roof, at which time the crews pulled out into a defensive operation," said Battalion Chief Brett Winstead. "They were hitting it from the outside. We had two walls collapse during the night."
According to Fire Marshall Jason Wills, the fire department was called back out to Gee Street Thursday afternoon to douse hot spots. Wills said a portion of the roof caved in and fire underneath the rubble rekindled. It took firefighters 15 minutes to extinguish the hot spots.

Fire Marshalls with the Jonesboro Fire Department were out investigating the scene after the flames were extinguished. It is believed the fire started somewhere in the back of the building. Firefighters said the age of the building may have also helped play a role.

"Due to code enforcement and the fire marshal's office, fires are down. With these older buildings, it's not unusual for one to go off like this," said Winstead.

According to Wills, the initial investigation revealed possible problems with electrical wiring. Wills said investigators found several electrical components near an area where the roof frequently leaked. Wills said the owner of the building indicated to them that lights continuously flicked on and off.

The owner of the building has contacted his insurance company, which is performing its own investigation.

Businessman Loses Everything

"I got woke up. I was at home in bed. I got woke up by a neighbor lady that said a friend of hers was driving by here and said that the flea market was on fire," said Eddie Rolland, who owned the Gee Street Flea Market across from Mombay's.

Rolland has owned the flea market for nearly a year. He started the business after spending several years as an auctioneer.

"I bought a bunch of stuff at auctions. I stock it and store it in buildings and stuff. Then you buy storage buildings and have a lot of stuff," said Rolland.

Rolland, an army veteran, spent the last ten years of his life working at Lazarri's in Jonesboro before starting his own business. He said the last year has been difficult because of the economy.

"There are a lot of poor people out there, but I guess we were just trying to make it," said Rolland. "It was important to me because it made enough money to where we could buy groceries."

Rolland told Region 8 News he had approximately $15,000 worth of goods stored inside his business, as well as antiques belonging to his late mother-in-law.

"I was in tears when I first got out here and seen it, because my wife's mother died and we brought all of her stuff back here. It was antique stuff and she was going to put it out and try to make it, but it's all gone too," said Rolland.

"We had a lot of glassware and antique stuff and knick-knacks and stuff that people liked," said Rolland. "It was just small items, cheap items. With the economy like it is, we tried to keep things reasonable."

Rolland said tried to save up enough to start his own business eight years before doing so.

"It takes money and then when you lose it all, it was money you thought you were going to make money on," said Rolland. "It makes you not want to do anything, because it seems like every time you do start something, it goes to the pot."

Rolland said he did not know what he was going to do next.

"Everything you put up on a shelf or something like that, it's yours until somebody else owns it. There was a lot of sentimental value there. It was something I was doing to make a better life for me," said Rolland.

Sad Song for Local Band

Members of the band Rukus took time off from their regular jobs Thursday to clean up and salvage. The band, which had been practicing at their recording studio next to Gee Street Flea Market over the last year, said it's been getting close to making it big.

"It's more than a hobby for all of us. This was something where we could hang out, play some music and have a good time," said Drew Seruya, one of four band members.

Seruya said it has had a few companies based in California listen to their work. Over a 15-year time period, the band has purchased more than $20,000 dollars worth of equipment.

"Two drum kits, two bass cabinets, amps, heads, two guitar cabinets, a ton of PA equipment and some recording equipment. Not to mention I had some personal goods from home," said Seruya.

The band practiced every Wednesday and Sunday night. It had planned on playing a gig at a local haunted house.

"We just finished practicing last night. We wrote a couple of new songs and got them hammered out. Now it's nothing," said Seruya. "We figured it was always a possibility to get robbed or something like that, but a fire destroying everything, we never thought that would happen."

Like the owner of the flea market, the band isn't sure what to do next.

Stan Morris contributed to this report.

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