More than 70 firefighters have taken more than six hours to contain a blaze that has devastated Little Saigon Market in Footscray.
A blaze tore through the iconic markets on Tuesday morning, sending palls of thick black smoke billowing across Footscray and Seddon.
Fire crews were first called to the blaze just after 6am after fire broke out in the refrigeration system above the cool room.
Residents in the area were warned to close all exterior doors, windows and vents as 75 firefighters battled for more than six hours before declaring the fire contained soon after noon.
A Watch and Act alert was issued and residents and motorists have been advised to avoid the area.
Closures remain in place for Nicholson, Ryan, Leeds, Donald and Byron streets.
The blaze destroyed thousands of school textbooks and Christmas presents that had been donated to the Les Twentyman Foundation.
The Seddon Community Bank Branch is setting up a drop-off point for new donations up at the Carols in the Yarraville Gardens event this Saturday.
Footscray Asian Business Association (FABA) president Wing La, who is overseas, said he had just heard about the fire and was seeking further information about the likely impact on traders.
Footscray Traders Association president and Littlefoot bar co-owner Stuart Lucca-Pope said the fire will have a flow-on effect throughout Footscray and beyond.
“It will have a massive impact on traders in the lead-up to Christmas, especially for local traders who depend on it,” he said.
“We source our goods from there. Thankfully we have still got the Footscray Markets, but there is a lot of produce that is only available there at Little Saigon.”
Mr Stuart Lucca-Pope said he will seek to work with landlords in the area to see if any short-term arrangements can be made for trading to continue out of any other premises.
Vietnamese Community in Australia president Viv Nguyen said the markets have been an important place for Melbourne’s Vietnamese Australian community to come together.
“For us Footscray is a name that a lot of Vietnamese Australians hold dear to their heart,” she said.
“I think it’s really important the community gets behind them.”
The blaze may finally pave the way for redevelopment of the markets, which opened in 1992.
Maribyrnong Council approved plans in 2012 for a new $70 million mixed-use development with two apartment towers of eight and 12 levels that would include 260 apartments above markets at ground level.