Origin of Miami Flea Market Fire Under Scrutiny

Hollywood fire officials and police are investigating a fire at the Millennium Mall flea market that might have been deliberately set.

A van was set on fire inside the mall and other fires were started nearby, said Matt Phillips, Hollywood fire department spokesman.

No one was injured in the Monday evening blaze that began about 9 p.m. in the southeast section of the mall, 5800 Hollywood Blvd. The mall was closed at the time, and the tenants are at the western end.

''I think it is great news no one got hurt,'' said Roy Oppenheim, an attorney for Millennium SuperMall, the group that leases and intends to buy the nearly one million-square-foot site. ''You always have to find a silver lining.''

Fire investigators collected evidence inside the building and will send it to BSO's crime lab for analysis, Phillips said. ''The investigation remains open.''

According to Oppenheim, the van belonged to an electrician who does work in the building and stores equipment on site.

''It was his equipment that was destroyed,'' Oppenheim said.

The mall is owned by Hollywood Fashion Mall. The blaze was in the area formerly occupied by the JC Penney department store during the property's heyday as the Hollywood Fashion Center.

The center closed in 1993 and the building stood empty for almost a decade.

In 2003, Millennium SuperMall signed a 60-year, $35 million lease with the property owner to redevelop and manage the site. Mall executives envisioned up to 2,000 booths, kiosks and shops, two food courts, a roughly 35,000-square-foot farmer's market, valet parking and a day-care center built in several phases.

The mall opened in 2003 as an ''upscale discount outlet'' with 700 vendors. Its signs now tout it as a ''flea market.'' The number of vendors has dwindled to 75.

Mall employees and executives are cooperating with the investigation, Oppenheim said.

''We want to know who is behind this as much as the police and the fire department,'' he said.

Distributed by the Associated Press