The top flat of the building housing Da Silva’s House of Optics at 315 Middle Street was gutted by a fire yesterday afternoon.
The bottom flat where the business is located sustained extensive water damage.
There were no casualties or injuries resulting from the fire which started shortly after 13:00 hrs. Two women and a baby were in the top flat of the building when the fire broke out. Brandon Milner, a relative of the fire victims, related that by the time he heard of the fire and rushed over to give assistance,
all three persons were already out of the building.
One of the women, he said, shared that she, her one year old baby, and her sister-in-law were all asleep when the fire started and were awakened by smoke. He further stated that the woman said she noticed that an air-conditioning unit was on fire as she was preparing to make her way out of the house.
Fire Chief Marlon Gentle told reporters at the scene that the cause of the fire is yet to be determined, although he did say that it started in the top flat of the building.
Gentle said the Fire Service received multiple alerts of smoke emanating from the gutted building at just about 13:15 hrs yesterday. These alerts prompted responses from the Alberttown and Central Fire Stations. Gentle said that firefighters from Alberttown were the first to arrive at the scene and observed that flames were emanating from the centre of the building. At this point, additional units were dispatched from the Fire Station at Campbellville, Gentle said.
By the time the tenders arrived though, the fire had completely engulfed the upper flat of the building, prompting firefighters to focus their efforts at preventing the blaze from spreading to nearby buildings. The building is flanked on the left by the Georgetown Public Hospital’s Malaria Centre and to the right by another building owned by the Da Silva family.
While efforts to suppress and contain the fire were successful, Gentle said that the fire severely damaged the inside of the top flat, while the bottom flat suffered significant water damage.
Relatives were unable to estimate their losses, although one man was of the view that many important items and documents were destroyed. Some items were saved nonetheless, and relatives, family members and public-spirited citizens were seen making trips to and from the structure to retrieve items. This was done only after firefighters had mostly contained the fire.
Even as Gentle spoke to reporters yesterday, firefighters were seen putting out residual pockets of fire. The Fire Chief said that several of these pockets remained, and that they have to go through each room as well as the ceiling to ensure the fire was properly put out. He said that because the building was old, the task needed to be dealt with meticulously. Extinguishing these pockets of fire is extremely essential as they have the propensity to rekindle a large flame if given enough time and providing there is enough fuel.
Lloyd Alleyne, a former city engineer, who was also on the scene of the fire, said that the structure was one of the only remaining pitch-pine buildings in Georgetown.
Alleyne also lauded the efforts of both the members of the Fire Service as well as operatives from Guyana Power and Light (GPL) on doing “an extremely fine job.”
He shared that the Fire Service arrived on the scene within five minutes of fire starting while GPL took 10-15 minutes. Once there, operatives from GPL went to work to disconnect the power to the building, while firefighters overcame several obstacles in their bid to secure a better vantage point to combat the blaze.
Meanwhile, two armed police ranks appeared on the scene of the fire after claims were made that persons were entering the premises under the guise of rendering assistance, but were instead making off with items. At least one man was accosted by police ranks after he was accused by family members and bystanders of stealing.