Twenty-two stalls on a pavement in Lake Gardens were gutted early on Sunday, injuring two men sleeping inside shops.
The stalls at the Lords Bakery crossing included eateries, bedding stores, a readymade garments stall, a chicken shop, paan shops and a salon.
Many of the shops stocked inflammable materials such as cotton and foam. Gas cylinders and cooking stoves were also there.
The fire broke out around 4am. Ten fire tenders took an hour and a half to douse the flames.
“The flames engulfed the stalls in no time. There was no scope of saving anything,” said Biswanath Pramanik, who has been running a salon on the pavement for over three decades.
Mohammad Amjad Ali, who owned a bedding shop, said one of his employees, Munna, was sleeping inside the stall and suffered burns. “Munna has burns on both thighs. An employee of a paan shop, who was also sleeping inside, suffered burns on his back,” Ali said.
The injured were taken to MR Bangur hospital, from where they were discharged after first aid, said Ali.
The stalls stood on a piece of land behind the pavement on the eastern flank of the road going towards Golf Green from the Lords Bakery crossing.
Customers had to stand on the footpath while making purchases. The stalls were separated by brick walls and most of them had tin roofs.
Tapan Dasgupta, the local councillor, said three gas cylinders were removed from the eateries immediately after the fire broke out. “If the cylinders were not removed in time, there could have been explosions and the flames could have spread further,” Dasgupta said.
One of the hawkers said the stalls had been there for at least last 25 years. “We do not own the land. We are all hawkers, but we have had stalls here for 25 to 30 years,” said a stall owner.
Hawkers’ stalls were blamed for the fires at Bagree Market in September last year and the landmark five-storey building at the Gariahat crossing that housed sari shops Traders Assembly and Adi Dhakeswari Bastralaya in January.
Eyewitnesses had said the fire that ravaged Bagree Market started in a hawker stall on the pavement in front of the market.
At Gariahat too, residents of the building had said that they first saw flames in a hawker’s stall on the footpath outside the building. The flames later spread to the building and destroyed several shops and flats.