A tragic fire occurred in Orange Walk Town on Sunday morning. A father and three of his children were lost when the inferno took possession of the house at the corner of Progress and Cinderella streets. The wooden house became kindle to the fire when it started about 5 a.m. After it was extinguished by the Fire Department, the charred remains of 14 year old Kevan Clare, 10 year old Mia Petillo and 12 year old Jeda Petillo were found in the children’s room while the body of their father, Alfred Petillo was found in the bathroom. Love News spoke to survivors of the fire who said Petillo ran back inside in an attempt to save the kids.
Jose Sanchez: “The Petillos went to a family gathering and returned home after 3 am. The building was partially made of concrete and plywood. Two brothers and their families occupied different sections of the connected structures. Zelda Bowen and the child in her arms of the family of five.”
Zelda Bowen: “Well we came in after 3 that morning. All of us, everybody here and we went to sleep, out the light and everything and we went to sleep but minutes to four or after four when he is waking me up he said babe get up, fire. He said get out and then he broke the side from the barber shop and he let me and the baby get out and then we heard the little girl in the back holla for him. She said Dad and he run in back, he gone in back and I don’t know everybody was all over the place and I throw my baby to somebody. I didn’t even know you know I am trying to help the next three but there is nothing you could do about it.”
Jose Sanchez: “Ma’am describe for us the best as you can that moment when you came to the realization that your family, there was nothing you could do for them?”
Zelda Bowen: “That is the saddest thing, saddest thing. He tried his best because when he was done from there he always tell me he said babe if anything to happen to my family I will die with my family and he gone in there to try and save those three and they never did come out but he put us out and three of them; he died with the baby in his hand. The youngest gyal and then the oldest boy and the next little girl.”
Jose Sanchez: “Where there any wiring issues with the building? Was it an old building, you had electricity? You know people are wondering it is Arson or electrical?”
Zelda Bowen: “Nothing electrical because the Chief of Police came and did his job. Everything, no electrical, no candles, no nothing. He was shocked because he said first time in his life he saw something like that because there was a pot on the stove. He said that melted to nothing and if the stove was light and it start from the stove the stove top would have burned. Not even a burn on the stove, nothing.”
Jose Sanchez: “Norma Petillo,her husband, son and daughter who live in the concrete structure all survived. Petillo says it was her birthday and it was early morning surprise wake up delivery Mananitas that turned into verbal warning to get out of the house.”
Norma Petillo Survival Fire: “The person that was going to bring the Mananitas for me was the one that actually alerted us to please come out because there was already a fire going on the other end of the building which was basically only plywood and they were banging and banging my door and my window and my son was at the front and I scolded him when he came out. I told him if it is a fight don’t come out because I don’t want you to get hurt and my friend Leslie that was there she said no no come out quickly because it is a fire so all I had to do was just turn back into the room and take out my husband out of bed, my daughter and all of us went outside but to the quickness that was the fire just everything engulfed the first part. They were calling and calling Police, Fire station nothing. It was sad to hear how the children that perished were screaming for help and there was no one that could get inside. Seeing your own children screaming for the other kids to come out and they can’t… it’s very hurtful.”
Jose Sanchez: “What is your judgment in terms of the Fire Department?”
Zelda Bowen: “Terrible, real terrible, we were calling and calling no answer. We were calling the Police, no answer. My brother in law jump from upstairs and jump in a pick up and he went way to the Fire Station, went there wake them up came back and the fire engine still did not reach, he reach back before them. When the fire engine reach not a light , not a siren, nothing. When they came they had like less than five minutes of water and then the truck run out then they went for another truck , no water. We have a fire hydrant right there and it look like WASA or somebody close it off because the truck they used to full there and I thank Mr. those are the ones he gone and he made a call and he gone and he bring his water truck and that is how they out the fire so I give many thanks to Denny Grijalva for that. He helped us all the way, he was the one. This Fire Department really aren’t doing their job.”
Jose Sanchez: “The Funeral for the Petillo family will be on Wednesday.”
Jose Sanchez for Love News.
The four bodies were transported to the Northern Regional Hospital for post-mortem examinations.The Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation has reached out to all three families affected by Sunday’s fire and has provided them with counselling intervention via counsellors from the Belize Community Counselling Center. Additionally, the Ministry is providing material assistance for all three families inclusive of burial assistance to help with funeral costs. The Family Support Social Worker stationed in the Orange Walk District will continue to follow up with the families with regards to additional medium-term assistance and the Ministry will continue to coordinate with its partners, including the Ministry of Education, to support the wider community.