Fire before dawn today completely ravaged the Golden Lion Chinese Restaurant at the intersection of Camp and D’Urban streets and the nearby Supreme Snacks which is just east of the restaurant.
Stabroek News arrived on the scene at about 02:10 this morning by which time the top flats of both businesses were completely gutted and the fire was still raging.
Fire Chief Marlon Gentle who was on the scene this morning told Stabroek News that the fire service received the first call around 01:50 hrs. He said that several calls were made to the fire service from the Guyana Police Force, a nearby hire car service and from a civilian via the 912 line.
“Three units immediately responded, including two from the central fire station and one unit from Albouystown. When they got here this building (Golden Lion Chinese Restaurant) was totally involved, there were already explosions coming from the building apparently from the gas cylinders, and the fire had spread tremendously and had consumed almost the entire building and had already spread to the Supreme Snackette,” Gentle explained.
Gentle said that another alarm went off subsequent to the first few and two more units were dispatched from Campbellville. “When they got there they went straight into fire-fighting mode using water from our tankers and then we subsequently transitioned to the canal on Princes Street because there was heavy threat of the fire spreading further west down the street.”
While firefighters battled the blaze, ranks from the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Prison Service blocked the portions of D’Urban, Bent, John and Camp streets which surround the Camp Street Prison as a security precaution.
GPL as a precaution shut down power to areas west of Camp Street in the Werk-en-Rust and other areas.
Up to early this morning the Fire Chief said that the cause of the fire was yet to be determined but said that they were able to establish that it had originated somewhere in the centre of the Chinese restaurant.
Lieng Hong, the proprietor of the Golden Lion also was also clueless as to what might have led to the blaze. Hong said that he had closed up the restaurant at about 12:00 hrs and left to have drinks with one of his workers. The man said that after leaving one night spot he was making his way to another when he got pulled over by the police for using an expired driver’s licence. He said that after dealing with the matter he was pulled over again by another rank who informed him that his building was on fire.
“When I drive and come back home the fire was big already,” Hong said.
Luckily though, the building was uninhabited except for some fish he kept in an aquarium in the restaurant. Hong said that his wife and their four children have been out of the country for some time now.
Asked to estimate his losses the man said that he had lost $25 million to $30 million in the fire. He explained that he had completely remodelled the entire building in 2008 which had increased the establishment’s value. He added that he is not yet sure how he will rebuild since he stopped buying insurance when he renovated six years ago.
Stabroek News also spoke to Richard April, the brother of Supreme’s proprietor, Nigel Rich. April said he was told by his brother that his family, who stays in the top flat of the establishment, were alerted to the fire next door by the overwhelming smell of smoke. “He said that when they looked through the window they saw smoke coming from the Chinese restaurant and immediately started to evacuate.”
An eyewitness to the fire, who at the time was standing on the intersection of George and D’Urban streets, said that he was alerted to the fire by the screams of a woman. He said that when he investigated the source of the scream he saw three women standing in the yard of
Supreme Snackette. The man said that he called out to the women and asked them why they were still in the yard.
“When I tell them fuh come out on the road they tell me that the gate was closed so I borrow a neighbour hammer quick and knock off the lock fuh they get fuh come out.” The man said that after the three women exited the yard, Rich was still in the veranda of the house. Stabroek News later learned that the man attempted to push some of his valuables to the west of the house in hopes that the Fire Service would extinguish the blaze before it engulfed the entire flat.
The man eventually exited the building unharmed but his attempts were in vain since the entire top flat of the Snackette was gutted by the flames. The family stated that they were unable to save anything but could not at the time estimate their losses.
Rich’s wife said that a total of five persons were in the house when the fire broke out.
The Fire Chief has said that the Fire Service’s response was almost immediate. Others disagreed. One man who lives nearby said that fire trucks never arrived until about a half hour after the fire started.
Hong in particular lamented the Fire Service’s response and said that they were “no good.” The man said that after he arrived on the scene of the fire he called the Fire Service several times but got no response. The man added that they never turned up until both buildings were completely engulfed in flames.
Gentle however, maintained that the Service’s response was almost immediate, but said that the blaze was so powerful that irreparable damage was already done to both buildings by the time they arrived. He suggested that the ferocity of the blaze was likely assisted by the many gas cylinders that were heard exploding.
Gentle said that their main objective, in light of the damage done before they arrived on the scene, was to contain the blaze and prevent it from spreading to other buildings west of the fire which were also facing a threat of being consumed.
This, he said, was successfully done.
April, in agreement with Gentle said he did not believe there was much the firefighters could do. The man said that the gas cylinders which fuelled the fire were more to blame.
The Golden Lion Chinese Restaurant had been in operation for approximately thirteen years while Supreme Snacks had been functioning for about nine years.