– church damaged, fire service arrived after one hour
By Adrian Smith
Fire of unknown origin gutted a two-storey building in Rose Hall yesterday morning destroying a home and three businesses and leaving a family of five homeless.
Losses amounted to millions of dollars, not only from the fire and water damage, but also the heavy looting of stock from the lower flat commercial entities while the fire burned upstairs. The fire started a little before 8 am and the fire tenders arrived from Albion and New Amsterdam around 9 am by which time the building was completely gutted.
The upper flat of building was home to Pastor Gregory Beharry, his wife Sandra Beharry and their three children. The lower flat of the building housed Western Union/Bill Express, Jai’s Footwear, Pawn Shop and Jewellery Store, and A & N Cosmetics Centre. A church adjoining the back of the building was partially burnt.
According to Sandra Beharry, she and her family were at home just before 8 am yesterday when the fire started. She said she was in the back verandah with her youngest child, while the rest of the family was inside looking at television, when she smelled something “like wiring burning”. She first thought that it was someone burning garbage, but on further consideration she decided to investigate.
She told Stabroek News that when she got into the back room she saw the curtains on fire and immediately alerted the others. She said they went for water to douse the fire, but when they returned with the water all the “thick tapestry” curtains were well alight and smoke billowed in the room. “We decided to take the children outside,” she said.
Simultaneously, the occupants of the lower flat were alerted and they immediately called the Fire Service.
Mrs Beharry said that because of the thick smoke and heat from the fire no one was able to get back into the house to save anything. “Everything was destroyed, even we papers. Nothing we could save,” she said. The Beharrys could not quantify their loss.
Bibi Persaud, the owner of A & N Cosmetics said she was not able to save anything either because the things she put outside were looted.
There were a few persons who were trying to help, she said, and who she would like to thank, but even their efforts were in vain. She said that she thought that the fire could have been contained. She was unable to give an estimate of her losses.
A cashier at Bill Express said that a number of persons were in a queue waiting to pay bills when he heard about the fire and decided to close up. He said persons who had paid went back to ask him what would happen to the bills they just paid. He told them that he was not sure but that they should keep their receipts safely.
Navin (only name given), manager of Jai’s Footwear and Pawn Shop, said the store only recently stocked up on footwear and other items. Everything was lost he said, either to the fire or looters.
Stabroek News spoke with a few persons who were helping — Lloyd Fraser of NIS, Bobby of Bobby and Sons Boutique, and Rohan Khadaroo — and they said that the fire could have been contained if there was more help or if the fire service had arrived earlier. They said that when the fire fighters arrived they appeared to be afraid to attack the fire. So the three volunteers took their hose and advanced towards the blaze. However, when the blaze was under control, they said, the firemen took the hose away and told them that they should not be there “and even say we trying fuh thief.”
They said they were trying to secure a vault belonging to the owners of Western Union/Bill Express and Jai’s Footwear, Pawn Shop and Jewellery Store. However, later when fire fighters and others helped to break into the room containing the vault, the manager of Jai’s, Navin, accused some fire fighters of looting and assaulted one of them. He was taken into custody, which angered some of the onlookers.
Residents of Rose Hall are again calling for the fire station promised for Rose Hall to become a reality. The fire fighters also found it difficult to find water since there are no hydrants in operation in Rose Hall. Their efforts to get water from a nearby drain slowed their reaction time, as their pumps could not take up the water.