The home of well-known businessman Salim Azeez was gutted by an early morning fire at Canal Number Two, on the West Bank of Demerara today.
The fire started after sparks were seen on a transformer on a Guyana Power and Light (GPL) utility pole outside Azeez’s home.
Azeez and his wife were not at home at the time of the fire but it is reported that his 15-year-old son, Junior Azeez, and a friend were at the property and managed to escape unhurt. The family’s dog, however, died in the fire.
The losses as a result of the fire were estimated to be in the millions. Azeez is the owner of the New Line Aqua Farm and is a major investor in the Hotel Tower on Main Street. He also plays an active part in local cricket.
Stabroek News was told that sometime around 2:30am, after the sparks were seen on the transformer, outside Azeez’s Lot 17 North Section, Canal Number Two home, the electrical wire that is attached to the house burst into flames and the interior of the building was soon engulfed.
Neighbours became aware of the fire after the younger Azeez and his friend managed to get to safety and began screaming.
A report was made to the fire service, which arrived about an hour and a half after the fire started, according to persons at the scene. Fire Chief Marlon Gentle told this newspaper that they received a call about the fire sometime around 3am and fire-fighters responded from their Georgetown and Leonora, West Coast Demerara locations. He added that they also received assistance from Wales Estate fire technicians.
He added that when the fire-fighters arrived at the scene, the entire middle and bottom flats of the three-storey building were engulfed in flames. He also said that the building burnt very quickly and as a result they managed to save nothing.
Witnesses said that nothing could be saved from the building because of the heavy grillwork on the house. They added that if the house was not soundproof they might have heard the screams of the younger Azeez and his friend and may have been able to save the building.
Efforts to contact Azeez today proved futile. Azeez’s mother, Bibi Juman, who lives in a house behind Azeez, said that she was awakened to screams of fire sometime around 3 am.
“Me hear me children upstairs ah holler ‘fire’ ‘fire.’ And me ask them, ‘where de fire deh?’ And them say the front house. And when me ah run, ah come out me see the fire deh pon the electrical wire here ah spark,” she said.
Upon seeing the sparking wire, Juman said she retreated. “Me go fuh run back because the wire would a spark pun me and bun me and when me run, me fall down and me foot get injured,” she added.
The woman stated that when she looked up into the building the entire veranda was on fire. She said she later learnt that the transformer had been sparking earlier.
A relative of Azeez, who asked not to be named, related that they received a call sometime around 4 am informing them of the fire and when they arrived at the scene only fire-fighters from the Wales Estate were there trying to contain the blaze. She added that the fire service arrived approximately ½ hour after their arrival.
“By the time the fire service arrived here, the place was already burn and the Wales people did a good job. I think if they (Guyana Fire Service) arrived earlier we would have been able to save the house,” she said.