Small Town News

Disaster and Accident

Fire destroys Gillett Flash Market

DeWitt Era-Enterprise of DeWitt, Arkansas

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Arson may be the cause

Flash Market in Gillett was totally destroyed in an early morning fire Tuesday. Investigators with the Arkansas State Police have been called in to conduct the investigation.

Gillett Police Chief Ken Dempsey said the first report came in at 3:50 a.m. that "flames were coming through the roof."

"Beyond that, we don't know at this time what caused it, ' Dempsey said. The ASP was called, because "we don't have the expertise here" to conduct the investigation.

Arkansas State Police investigator Scott Rosegrant would not comment on the investigation Tuesday, although a law-enforcement officer said arson was suspected in the blaze.

Gillett firemen were still hosing down the smoking rubble over five hours later. Fire chief Monty Young said the DeWitt Fire Department came and assisted for awhile. "All I know is it started in the back, " Young said.

Store manager Donna Chambers sat on the sidewalk across the street and watched in disbelief. She was notified about 4:20 a.m. and came to the scene. "[ The Gillett firemen] were already fighting the fire, " Chambers said. "It went really fast."

Ricky Hunter, co-owner of the Flash Market stores, came from West Memphis as soon as he heard the news. He still got a shock when he arrived. "I didn't know it would be totally burned down." Only the gas pumps escaped the conflagration.

Hunter said it was "too early" to comment on rebuilding.

Gillett mayor Jared Holzhauer said he plans to call the owners soon to discussre building."I hope and pray they will rebuild, " Holzhauer said. "We need that store."

Although Gillett has some remaining retail businesses, Flash Market was a "big revenue generator, " Holzhauer said. Its loss will have a big effect on the city's financial condition, although Hoi zhauer said he would n 't know exactly how much until next month, when the sales tax figures are computed.

'T veal ready toldcityemployees to tighten their belts, " he said. In particular, plans to pave some of the city's streets may have to be put off.

Meanwhile residents of Gillett are absorbing just what the loss of one of the city's few businesses will mean.

City recorder Jennifer Lowe got up just before 5 a.m. and noticed some unusual bright lights. Then she saw the fire trucks and realized what was happening. Like many others, Lowe said she was just "sick" to see the destruction.

"We've got to have a store, " she said.

Original Publication Date: July 6, 2011

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