Monday morning fire guts homes and vehicles on Simon Lamb Street
At least three families on Simon Lamb Street are picking up the pieces after a fire destroyed two houses and scorched a third, and completely eviscerated three vehicles, including a truck. The initial investigation by the fire service suggests that an accident caused this morning’s blaze. However, it resulted in students at St. Joseph School being sent home for the rest of the day and parts of the neighbourhood seeing their power restored late this evening. Dale McDougall and Shayanne Dena lead our newscast tonight with this report of the terrible blaze.
This was the scene this morning on Simon Lamb Street in Belize City. A fire gutting a wooden structure…and the plumes of smoke and a series of explosions giving the students and teachers at St. Joseph School a real fright. The inferno broke out at around 11:00 this morning and it started at this structure, as explained by Station Supervisor Kenneth Mortis.
Kenneth Mortis – Station Supervisor, National Fire Service: The fire started at the rear bedroom of the two storey wooden structure that was situated on Simon Lamb Street. This particular room was occupied by one of those unwelcomed dwelling tenants so to speak. He was involved in something out of the ordinary that eventually consumed the building, spread to nearby structures and caused vehicular damage loss to the tenants of the house next door. Not set with intent but due to an accident that accident cost several people to be homeless.”
And one of those people is Desiree Gordon, who told us she was not at home at the time of the blaze. Gordon explained that she lost all of her possessions in the fire.
Desiree Gordon – Fire Victim: “I was by Poundyard Bridge this morning when a young man came to tell me the house that I live in was on fire. I was just concerned about the man upstairs like how he was safe I dropped my baby by my mom and I found away over here. Everything I owed is destroyed.
Reporter: What all is that ? What did you lose ?
Desiree Gordon – Fire Victim: “I had my whole house, whole things in the downstairs. It was rooms so I had three rooms where one of my daughter lived in there and I had two that I made into one where the place was so small because I’m a single mother of seven and I don’t have all of my kids that’s the reason why I’m here and the other room I have my sofa and rest of stuff in another room that I had put up.”
When asked what’s next, Gordon was overwhelmed with the emotion.
Reporter: For you what’s the plan in place because clearly it’s all completely gone.
Desiree Gordon – Fire Victim:
Another person affected by the blaze was this father, who identified himself only as Lino. He told us the sudden blaze forced a quick evacuation of his family.
Lino – Fire Victim: “I saw the whole place under smoke when I told my neighbours called the men and that’s how we made it out with my kids. Well right now it looks like the second house is catching right now with the four vehicles in the yard because it’s just popping you’re hearing like the batteries and things blowing up.”
Reporter: So what was your first reaction when you saw all that smoke and then you realised it was a fire ?
Lino – Fire Victim: “Well I don’t have a lot of reaction because I’m a calm man. All I did was take out my children and I came out here on the side and watched the flames. I can’t do anything but we’re not really panicking or anything like that.”
An elderly man, who lived in the house, is also lucky to be alive – and that’s thanks to the efforts of Annasya Yearwood and a second person. Yearwood, who appeared off camera, described what they did to save the man’s life.
Annasya Yearwood – Rescued Golden Citizen: “My mom sells food right here at the end of the lane, food and things and then we saw the smoke so I went to watch and see and then I remember the little old man and I know his son is not always there so I just went up there, called two of my other neighbours and went up and got him. The fire had already partially taken over the house but my baby’s father is a fireman so I just used his tactics to go on the ground and we brought out the man. I wasn’t afraid because as I told you my other half is a fireman and he always keeps us on the alert more or less what to do when things happen. We just knocked down the door, we helped carry him half and half and we stooped down and came out with him.”
Reporter: Where was he because you say the fire –
Annasya Yearwood – Rescued Golden Citizen: “Yeah he was in the room but the fire started from the back house downstairs so it was just going up. Well I could have seen the motion of the fire when I was down there so I just went with that in my head and we went in the house for the man.”
But even as those efforts took place, the wind was not cooperating. On the contrary, the dramatic change in wind direction only made things more complicated, as Mortis explained.
Kenneth Mortis – Station Supervisor, National Fire Service: “First the wind was blowing in the direction towards Chon Saan Palace. That was where the gentleman whose house and his three cars were damaged. From that perspective everything almost seemed fine in observation with the school. In the blink of an eye the wind changed direction and then blew across the street toward the school and then that’s where it got a little bit chaotic so to speak, the vision was heavily blurred due to the black smoke and what have you but it really had us setting up our line of attack, relocating our line of attack moving from front to back, from side to the front and then again to the back so it really had us going today. Nevertheless these are factors that we will face and we just have to see how best we can always be ready to reposition our line of attack when these obstacles in terms of the wind do happen.”
With the challenges faced out there, the responding firefighters extinguished the flames. But for the families affected, most – if not all – will inevitably need a fresh start. For the fire service, there are lessons to be learned.
Kenneth Mortis – Station Supervisor, National Fire Service: “It’s always gonna be water supply. We’re always targeting for example bigger tankers, or bigger water tanker capacity it doesn’t have to be a big truck but a bigger capacity in terms of water. Again we continue to make this plea with residents to assist the fire department in keeping their surroundings clean. One of our minor set backs this morning was the fact that we had the trucks out at a bush fire in the Jane Usher Boulevard area responding from Jane Usher Boulevard to Simon Lamb was a bit time constrain but this is what we do. We are fire fighters, we are a national fire service and we respond to all fires that are within our capabilities.”
Desiree Gordon, who was featured in our story, can be reached at phone number 601-2027. Minister of Home Affairs and Caribbean Shores Area Representative Kareem Musa went to meet with some of the affected residents right after the fire and he pledged to help. Reports to our newsroom that some students at the school had to be taken to the hospital due to smoke inhalation. However, we’re being told that no one was hurt.