Mid-afternoon fire destroys 2 Quamina street houses

A mother and her child are now counting themselves lucky after her Lot 197 Quamina and Camp streets home and that of her aunt were gutted by fire of unknown origin a little before 3pm yesterday, leaving over 10 persons with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Amanda Olliviere was inside her home when she heard her mother, Vanessa Collymore, screaming ‘fire.’ She picked up her three-month-old baby and was able to exit the building. The mid-afternoon blaze has now left Collymore and her daughters Olliviere and Socota along with their children homeless. Collymore’s sister, Margo Elias and her reputed husband as well as Jacqueline Fortune and her family, are also now contemplating their next move.

Nothing was saved from the two old wooden houses and the families said that their losses constituted significant amounts but that they were too shocked to calculate an average.
Firemen from the Guyana Fire Service responded to the scene in a timely manner and managed to save the house of Jacquelin Soares, located next to Fortune’s from being reduced to ashes. However, the side of her house was scorched by the flames.

Vanessa Collymore’s home and that of her sister’s on fire
Vanessa Collymore’s home and that of her sister’s on fire

The firemen with some civilian help also succeeded in preventing the fire from spreading to other houses nearby.  A fireman jumped through the window of Soares’ home and managed to take most of her belongings to safer ground with the help of public spirited citizens.

A barefooted Collymore was consumed with grief and was standing in the street when this newspaper visited the scene. She recalled hearing someone calling repeatedly for her grandson while she was downstairs cutting meat to cook. When she looked outside to see what the person wanted she saw the upper flat of her home on fire. She related how she ran out of the building calling for her daughter Olliviere who was inside with her child. Olliviere and her child then exited the house before the flames had devoured it. “Everything bun up,” she said simply.

Collymore could not say what caused the fire when asked.

The conflagration then spread to Fortune’s house in the next lot and thereafter to that of Soares just as the firemen arrived. Fortune was at work and was informed by telephone that her home had been gutted in the blaze. She was not at the scene up to late yesterday afternoon.

A large crowd gathered to get a glimpse of the action and policemen were also on the ground assisting with the erection of barricades. The bottom flat of Collymore’s home was where Elias lived.  She appeared confused when Stabroek News spoke with her. According to Elias, she had just finished combing her hair and was putting on her clothes to head out when she heard that the house was on fire.  At this, she ran out with her hair still in a shower cap, she said, and stood in the street where she watched helplessly as the place she once called home was reduced to embers.

A teary-eyed Socota told this newspaper that everything she had worked so hard to accomplish had been destroyed. She said she is a single parent with two kids and had bought a television and fridge, among other things, in preparation for moving out of her mother’s home. She added that she was planning to rent a comfortable place for her family and had made sacrifices such as throwing “box hand” to assist in purchasing whatever she needed.

A fireman entering the home of Jacquelin Soares
A fireman entering the home of Jacquelin Soares

Socota was at her workplace in Diamond when she heard that her home was on fire.  She said that while there she had a feeling something was not right, and she called home to check on her children and her sister Olliviere. But on her second attempt to contact her family, she found she could not get through and the phone went to voicemail.  It was while pondering as to what may have happened to the phone she received the sad news of what had occurred.

Meanwhile, 69 year-old Soares was carried out from the blaze by a friend of her relative. Soares said she could not say how the fire started but noted that about two months ago a city businessman came and told her that he had bought the land she was living on, and she told him that he should speak to her lawyer. But Soares did not link the land dispute with the fire when questioned about it.

She also said that she was inside her home when she saw fire at Collymore’s house after which it spread to Fortune’s and then to hers. Relatives of Collymore, Soares and Fortune were seen comforting them while others reminded them that they still had their lives and their losses were material things.

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