Tonight, seven adults and six children are displaced after their homes were burnt to the ground due to an act of arson. While no one was hurt, but the affected families lost everything in the blaze that investigators say is the result of an exchange of words that led to absolute mayhem on Friday night. Reporter Vejea Alvarez spoke to the victims and has the story of how a friendship gone sour led to many broken hearts.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: I’m standing here on this plot of land at the corner of Nargusta and Sibun Street where seven families once called home. But today it’s been reduced to a wasteland of rubble, debris and ashes.
Around six o’clock on Friday night fire officials responded to a fire in Belize City and upon arrival they met four wooden structures engulfed in flames. After an hour of fighting the belligerent blaze they were able to extinguish the fire but unfortunately the homes and all of the contents inside were completely destroyed. 52 year old Frances Martinez says she and her husband were watching television when they realized that their neighbor’s home was on fire.
Frances Martinez, Fire Victim: “We were watching tv and ten the signal went off on the tv and then my husband came out and checked outside and when he went outside he saw the house blazing with fire then he came inside and told me that there was a fire and I ran outside with my underwear. Then I ran inside and I got a pants and I cam outside back and I put it on. I wanted to run inside again but the fire was blazing too much so he tried to get water throw to the fire, he called the police, he called the fireman but nobody came. Everybody came out but they stood up and never helped only he was trying to out the fire. “
By the time Martinez was able to alert the other persons living in the yard the fire had already turned into an inferno of flames. 24 year old Marva Cayetano who is currently eight months pregnant says that the pain of losing everything she and her family owned has been the hardest thing to deal with.
Marva Cayetano, Fire Victim: “By the time they came to tell me the whole building was already on flams already and was looking to burn down.”
Reporter: Ms.Cayetano –
Marva Cayetano, Fire Victim: “In less than ten minutes, it started like six thirty by seven thirty the whole building was gone. They left me and my kids without somewhere to stay even though it wasn’t much but it was somewhere we were staying, all our stuff was in there. I had a baby on the way they really – I don’t even want to cry but they really hurt my family. Right now I have my baby that is going to school, I have my two year old and I have a baby on the way. I lost everything. I lost my stove, my gas tank, everything that I worked hard to get. I don’t have anything right now. I’m getting a little clothes and assistance from people but if anybody would want to assist me it would be real nice.”
Reporter: While no-one was hurt in the tragic incident 23 year old Shanice Reyes, the tenant of the structure where the fire started says things could have been far worse.
Shanice Reyes, Fire Victim: “When I saw the fire the only thing I could do was cry. I cried. I lost everything the only thing I had on my was my clothes, my working clothes because I still had on my working clothes because like I told you my baby had pain of belly I went to take her for them to deal with her. Suppose I was in there with my babies now ? My mom would have to be burying me right now with my two babies not one, two because it was at my door they went to put that. Not anybody’s door my door. So suppose it was one of those days I was tired came home from work and I didn’t go anywhere and went to lockup inside because I’m a person that when I come from work and I’m tired I bathe my baby, deal with them and I go lay down with my babies. Supposed it was one of those days I was tired from work I would probably be dead by now because they don’t have heart.”
Reporter: According to supervisor at the National Fire Service of Belize, Kenneth Mortis, the fire is believed to be the result of a malicious act.
Kenneth Mortis, Station Supervisor, Belize National Fire Service: “I can almost safely say that this case now will become a criminal matter providing that if the landlord so chooses to place charges against these individuals then it becomes a case for the police to deal with.”
Reporter: But while Mortis says the case is open and shut according to Assistant Superintendent of Police Alejandro Cowo the department is seeking the main suspect to determine if indeed arson was the case.
Supt. Alejandro Cowo, Head of National Crimes Investigation Branch, Belize City: “Presently we are seeking one of the persons that is being mentioned to see what kind of assistance we can get from that person and exactly try to establish the motive behind the fire. At this moment I cannot positively tell you it is an arson. “
None of the houses were insured and the total loss of the fire is yet to be ascertained. If you are willing and able to help any of the families they can be reached at these respective numbers. Cayetano can be reached at 652-3455. Martinez can be reached at 662-6703 and Reyes can be reached at 623-2667.
And while investigators are trying to put the pieces together to figure out what happened on Friday night, one of the victims says she knows exactly who is behind the malicious act. The tenant of the home where the fire started, twenty-three-year-old Shanice Reyes says she is sure that the fire was intentionally set by persons known to her. According to Reyes she had just left her home and headed over to her mother-in-law when she got the news. The mother of three says that she believes that fire may be connected to an altercation that she had with another woman that she once called a friend.
Shanice Reyes, Fire Victim: “Well to me that is just hatred because that little incident happened, the mom brought police. The mom said she wants it to be done -this happened the Thursday night – the mom said she wanted this thing to be done then next thing I know Friday night they burned down my house and nobody can’t tell me it’s not them because I know it’s them. Because why as me and you all have something nobody from around there can say they hate me. Nobody. But just me and them went through wone little thing and the mom said she wanted to be done. She brought the police them, that’s to tell you she brought police and said she wanted it to be done so I told her once her daughter doesn’t fool with me I won’t fool with her because me once you don’t fool with me, my things or my children I won’t fool with you.”
Reporter: I know you said after you left your house you had seen these persons in the area ?
Shanice Reyes, Fire Victim: “Well yeah I did see them. I avoided them because I stood up and saw them in the yard, I saw them when I went into my yard because remember I told you I just left from there, not even five minutes I left from there and I did see them but I didn’t know they were going to do that because I just left from there and when I reached they came and told me that the house is burning and when I looked outside it’s because I saw big flames so I couldn’t do anything.”
Reporter: I know you said that this person that allegedly is behind this malicious act was your friend. This person was your friend so how does it feel knowing that someone you opened your arms to, someone you tried to help, someone you called a friend turned around and did such an evil thing to you ?
Shanice Reyes, Fire Victim: “Hmm. More than one person – like to me this is a big eye opener because this is not the first time I’ve had a friend hurt me but this is the worst it has ever reached and now I see for myself I don’t have any friends. My friends are my kids now because everybody I try to help I’m a person once I see I can help you in a way – I saw that young lady was punishing so I helped her get a job at my work. I helped her and for her to do this to me ? Off hatred ? So that really hurt me, that made me say you know I need to grow my daughters like this “Mama, you don’t have any friends. Your friend is your sister and your brother those are the only friends you have you don’t need people that say they are your friends out here because people out here are not your friends. They are just friends but they’re enemies too.”
And if the pain of losing everything wasn’t bad enough, according to Reyes the alleged perpetrators continued provoking her the very next day.
Shanice Reyes, Fire Victim: “I went to work on Saturday, I said to myself I wasn’t going to work and I sat down and they were telling me no Shan this is not you go to work mama. I got up and changed my baby, dropped her at the babysitter I went to work. I reached to work the entire day like my mind like I didn’t feel good and my head was hurting me, I cried at work and all, my coworkers told me not to cry, everything will be okay. And I cried. When I looked and I was taking out my orders a mind told me to look behind me and when I looked behind me I saw the person that they say allegedly started the fire, in the line to buy food and he would never buy there. So why did you all come see that I came to work ? It’s like you’re tantalizing me and I don’t have anything to tell you because I could fight evil with evil because I have people that could do those things but my granny always told us “Mama you never fight evil with evil.” We grew up in the church so I will never fight evil with evil. You feel that you did me bad ? I will tell them out there, they didn’t do me bad they didn’t do me bad at all because people that never helped me before I’m getting a lot of help and I thank God for that.”
Reporter: And what would you ultimately want to see the justice system do to these persons ? What would you want to see be done ?
Shanice Reyes, Fire Victim: “Well they already did their crime so they have to spend their time.”
Reyes says that while she has to rebuild her life from the ground up she is grateful that they managed to escape unharmed. If you are willing and able to donate to Reyes she can be reached at 623-2667.