As debris is cleared from the smoldering wreckage left by a Dec. 8 fire at the Santo Tomas Swap Meet in Calexico, its proprietor and city officials are working to reopen the popular shopping location.
Santo Tomas General Manager Juan Carlos Gonzalez said while merchants were expected to be allowed back on the grounds on the morning of Dec. 12, there still was not date for a reopening.
The swap meet has hired a company that will work to clean up the burned area, he added.
Time is of the essence; there are less than two weeks left in the holiday shopping season and December generates the most sales.
“We still haven’t quantified the damages since one is the structural damages and the other is the losses by the merchants on their sales,” Gonzalez added.
Since Santo Tomas is typically open daily, losses from missed sales will mount quickly.
Merchants met early on Dec. 9 to get more information about the damages.
Santo Tomas merchant Araceli Ceballos explained all the merchants were affected by the fire even if their stall wasn’t burned.
“It’s a total loss for all of us here at Santo Tomas because the smoke affected all of our merchandise and is not useful anymore,” Ceballos said.
When asked if they had insurance, Ceballos and other merchants said they didn’t because it is not allowed and the city asks for a lot of requirements.
“I hope the authorities make the right decision to help us and make sure they re-open since for many of us it’s our only income we have,” said Ernesto Toledo, a merchant.
Merchants have also met with city officials about help available to those that suffered losses, Gonzalez added.
Calexico resident Javier Moreno, who volunteered to assist the swap meet, said a list will be created of those that were severely affected so that the city and county can help them with funds.
“We need to find out resources from the city, county and state to help them get back on their feet as soon as possible since we are two weeks away from Christmas,” Moreno explained.