The origin of the Friday fire which completely destroyed three buildings and badly damaged another on Regent Street, has left businessmen, employees and residents who have been affected seeking answers from the Guyana Power and Light Company.
However, Chairman of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Winston Brassington told the media yesterday that an investigation into the fire is ongoing and that he could not comment until the findings are released.
Efforts to contact Fire Chief Marlon Gentle for comment yesterday proved futile.
The fire completely destroyed Regent Household Electronics, the bond behind the building, and the home of Rudolph Montouth and his reputed wife Mildred Gibbs. The upper two flats of the three storey building which housed DM Beauty World were also destroyed by the fire.
On Friday, employees at the M. Umraow and Sons store opposite Household Electronics told this newspaper that around 4:50 pm they noticed the wire that connects that building to the electricity post, sparking. This section of the wire is attached to the building before it runs down to the meter. One of the employees said that “it catch on the wire first, started sparking, and… it start spread on the wire into the building.”
Yesterday one man said “the fire is totally GPL fault, totally their fault”.
Another resident, John Piggott, echoed the sentiments of the businessman who said that “in spite of whether they [GPL] offer compensation or not, the fire was started by the sparking electrical wires”. The man then proceeded to show this newspaper photographs of the sparking wires in front of Household Electronics.
Residents in the area told this newspaper yesterday that contrary to some reports there was no blackout prior to the fire starting.
When this newspaper visited the scene yesterday morning at about 11 am, there was still a heavy police presence on the scene as barricades were still in front of the burnt buildings. Later, investigators were observed sifting through the debris.
Meanwhile, employees of the two enterprises affected by the fire had gathered, many contemplating the way forward. A manager at DM Beauty World, who declined to be named, was unable to give an estimate as to how much was lost at the store. The manager said that they were waiting for the owner of the building Mukesh Daby, who was expected to arrive in the country last evening to determine the way forward.
The manager disclosed that neither she nor the employees had been briefed by the Guyana Fire Service or the Guyana Police Force as yet.
Meanwhile efforts to contact Shaheed Hamid, the owner of Household Electronics Store yesterday were unsuccessful. However, when this newspaper asked one of the man’s close relatives if the building was insured he said that he was unsure but that “he hoped so.” The man was also unable to say anything about the value of the property lost.
At around midday, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds performing the function of President visited the site and spoke briefly with the employees of the affected businesses as well as relatives of the owners of these establishments. He offered his condolences to them and wished them the best in their recovery efforts.
In a comment to this newspaper, Hinds described the fire as “a loss to individuals and to the nation”. He added that fire was to be “regretted” since it destroyed capital and various accumulations of wealth.
Meanwhile, residents who lived in the vicinity were trying to restore some semblance of order to their homes and lives.
When this newspaper visited the Lot 142 W ½ home of seventy-nine year-old Iris Yee, relatives and friends were doing repairs to her home. This home is located directly west of DM Beauty World. The woman was not at home at the time and Stabroek News was told by her nephew John Piggott that she was resting comfortably at a relative.
According to Piggott his aunt usually lives alone but he would spend time with her occasionally. He said yesterday was one such occasion but he was not with her when the fire started. He said that he was at a neighbouring building when he received a telephone call from his aunt who told him about the blaze. According to him, the women then exited the building on her own where he collected her and carried her to safety.
Piggott said that substantial damage was done to the home, as windows were broken, part of the building was scorched and the roof was also damaged. He explained that fireman entered his aunt’s home in their attempt to control the blaze and in this process damage was done to the property, which has been home to his aunt for more than twenty years.
When asked to estimate the losses, Piggott said that it was certainly in excess of $1 million.
Suzanne D’Anjou and her two daughters Miriam and Nikisha are grateful that their home is still intact, after they had feared for the worst. Their home is located in the same yard as Iris Yee’s and her neighbours to the east were Rudolph Montouth and Mildred Gibbs who lost their home in the blaze.
When this newspaper visited the house, the trio was busy cleaning and trying to get their home in order. Suzanne said that the damage done to the home was minimal. According to her they were able to save most of their valuable equipment. The woman stated that the side of the building was scorched and that her carpets and mattresses got badly soaked.
The woman and her two daughters, however, are also looking for their dog Parker. The animal got lost during the fire. The dog is a brown and black dachshund with white paws. According to D’Anjou persons said that they saw the dog in the area last evening but they did not know who it belonged to.
Over at the Nicholas Mc Lean Animal Hospital staffers were getting things in order and they too were grateful that there had not been any significant damage.
Kathryn McLean, wife of the owner, said that her husband is currently overseas. According to her, the animals were all evacuated after the fire started and spent the night at the GSPCA. Staffers at the hospital noted that the animals may experience some amount of trauma because of the fire but she said this is carefully monitored by the staff.
One of the employees at the Animal Hospital, Christopher Perkins had to be hospitalized after sustaining injuries while engaged in heroic deeds at the scene of the fire. Perkins is 24-years old and is a Veterinary Technician.
Describing him as “one of the heroes of the day”, Mc Lean said that Perkins was busy moving property and later decided to go on the roof of the building to help the officers hose the fire. She said that at one point he was left alone on top of the building with the hose.
Explaining, how the young man got injured, Mc Lean said that at some point while traversing the area, Perkins slipped and fell and injured his shoulder in the process. He was rushed to a private hospital where he was admitted. He is recovering well this newspaper was told.
Jerome De Freitas, the proprietor of Jerome De Freitas & Sons at 175 E ½ Charlotte Street, was high in praise for the fire-fighters who helped to quell the blaze on Friday from the back of his yard. The man’s property is located behind the building which housed Household Electronics. According to him, had it not been for their quick thinking and bravery more property would have been damaged since several of the properties in the neighbourhood are made of wood.
According to De Freitas, he was in his house at the front of the yard, when he observed the fireman run through his gate and down to the back of the yard where they began to apply the hose to the burning building. He said that soon more hoses were applied to the task from his yard and those of neighbours.
He said that the fire officers took great care in soaking the neighbouring houses in Charlotte Street, actions which he described as extremely wise, since these buildings were at risk because of the wind direction at the time.
During the firemen’s efforts to extinguish the fire, De Freitas’ fence was damaged but he considers this a small price to pay for what could have been more serious and devastating damage.