More than three dozen persons lost their homes in an early morning fire on Lombard Street, in the city, which destroyed two buildings and five shacks yesterday.
The fire, which began sometime before 7am, started at the bottom flat of an old wooden building at Lot 17 Lombard Street and quickly spread to the neighbouring Lot 18 structure as well as several nearby shacks. The buildings were situated opposite the Guyana National Industrial Corporation (GNIC) base on Lombard Street.
Residents stated that a man who lives in the area was dismantling the upper half of the building where the fire started and it is believed that his actions led to the fire. He was arrested.
Fire Chief Marlon Gentle said at the scene that the fire service received a report of the fire at around 7:05 am and three units responded, including one from the Central Fire Station as well as one from West Ruimveldt. He said that by the time they arrived, the building at the centre of the compound was already gutted and operations commenced to contain the blaze.
Gentle noted that the area “is not friendly to fire-fighting,” while adding that the buildings were earmarked for demolition. The fire was brought under control after about 30 minutes, he added.
The top half of the building from which the fire originated contained three apartments. Several persons, including Tenisha Daniels, 20, Leon Daniels, 35, Mark Brooks, 28, and Towana Paul, 5, lived there. Occupying the four apartment lower flat of the building were twins Shonette and Shondell George, 22, who both lived with their husbands and two children; Alaine Jones and her three children; and Abiola Khalil and her three children.
Jean, Shelly and Verona Melville, ages 37, 22, and 32, respectively; Shelly’s two children; Akeem Austin, 23; Tineto Farley; and Nicholas Archer lived on the top flat of the Lot 18 building. Joyce Barton, 59, and her two sons, Joseph Barton and Fitzroy Quintin, her daughter Niketa Quintin, and her two grandchildren Tamara and Sheneeza occupied the lower flat.
When this newspaper visited the scene, shortly after the fire began, firefighters already had the blaze under control while the fire victims converged on the streets with some of the belongings they managed to salvage.
The residents said that the man who had been dismantling the building did not live in the house he was dismantling, but in another building that was a little way from the blaze.
According to Abiola Khalil, 40, as she was leaving for work yesterday morning, “this man was breaking upstairs—the council supposed to come tomorrow to break the place so he musse want the wood—and I told him to leave the place alone.” He apparently did not pay heed to the woman’s admonitions, as he continued after she left, and it was shortly after this that residents said the fire started.
Eyewitnesses noted too that upon seeing the fire, the man attempted to douse it with water but the flames spread faster throughout the old wooden structure.
At the scene, members of the Guyana Relief Council were recording names and particulars of persons who resided in the buildings in order to assist those who were affected by the fire. The relief organisation members later assisted the residents with several, items including mattresses, clothing, and food items. They also offered residents spots at the shelter, but this offer was declined and some residents stated that they preferred to stay at the site and “build something till we get land.”