Mystery fire guts Subryanville house, losses pegged at $35M

– remigrant, tenant homeless

Fire of unknown origin yesterday morning gutted a two-storey home leaving in its wake an estimated $35 million in losses and a 68-year-old re-migrant and his tenant homeless.

It was a neighbour who first spotted flames coming from a back window of the upper flat of the Lot 260 Fifth Avenue, Subryanville property around 07:40 hrs and immediately raised an alarm.

The re-migrant, Mervyn Butts, had left the property about half an hour before the fire started. The tenant who lived in the bottom flat had left much earlier.

A distraught Mervyn Butts

According to Jason David, when he stepped onto his back stairs he saw the fire and black smoke and, thinking that Butts was in the building, he immediately ran over. He said that when he reached the stairs he could go no further as the heat was too much. He said his intention was to kick down the door.

David, who was soaked as a result of his attempts to assist, said he called out for Butts several times but there was no response.

He said there was no power surge in the area in the minutes before the fire was spotted.

Meanwhile, a distraught Butts told Stabroek News at the scene that he has lost everything. He said the house itself is worth approximately $30 million while the clothing and household items were estimated to be in the vicinity of $5 million. Important documents were also destroyed in the blaze.

Butts said he had been living overseas for 35 years and returned home several months ago as he is getting old and wanted to get away from the cold. He said that he started living in the Fifth Avenue property about a month ago.

He expressed belief that the fire was electrical in origin since on the previous day, he saw a spark near the electrical meter. He assured this newspaper that when he left home yesterday morning, no appliances or lights were on in the house.

Butts recalled that he had almost arrived home when he got the devastating news that his home was on fire. He was later met with the sight of flames.

He complimented fire fighters for their timely response and their efforts to save the building. Residents also commended the work of fire officials but pointed out that nothing could have been done to save the building which was constructed out of wood and concrete. They commended the fire fighters for their hard work in ensuring, the flames did not spread to nearby home. The only additional damage was to a water tank of a nearby house.

Butts said he does not know what his next move would be.

His tenant, Butts said, left early yesterday morning for an out of town destination. He had been unable to reach him to give him the grim news.

Stabroek News later learnt that the fire engine had to rush back to the scene on three occasions after fire erupted in the ceiling.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the fire.