‘Complex’ probe of Gafoor’s blaze continuing – Fire Chief

Three weeks after a  blaze destroyed a single bond at the Gafoors Shopping Complex at Houston, East Bank Demerara, the cause of the fire is yet to be determined as investigations are still ongoing.

Fire Chief Marlon Gentle yesterday told Stabroek News that the Guyana Fire Service has not yet completed its investigations into what caused the blaze at the complex.

While he did not go into much detail, Gentle stated that investigators have been interviewing staff at the Houston Complex and collecting other information relevant to the case.

Commenting on the reason the investigation is taking so long, the Fire Chief stated investigations into the Gafoor’s fire would be more complex than ordinary fires since there are many dimensions to what could have taken place.

The aftermath of the Gafoor’s fire
The aftermath of the Gafoor’s fire

Nevertheless, he offered the assurance that the investigations are not expected to drag on for much longer.

Stabroek News had reported on the fire which occurred on the evening of October 10, a mere six months after a massive blaze ravaged 60 percent of the same complex, leaving billions of dollars’ worth of damage and scores of employees having to be redeployed to other branches across the country.

Executive Chairman of the Company Sattaur Gafoor, when questioned about the circumstances surrounding the second fire, was unable to give any details apart from the fact that the fire had started in one of several bonds located at the western end of the complex.

Asked specifically if there were any combustible items stored in the said bond, Gafoor was adamant that the bond was only used for the storage of white cement, tiles and sanitary wares.

However, during a visit to the site one day after the fire occurred, Stabroek News observed the presence of aerosol cans and what appeared to be containers among the debris left behind in the wake of the fire. Two fire tenders were also on the scene as firefighters were seen rummaging through the rubble.

Attempts to raise the question about the presence of combustible items being stored in the bond with Gafoor yesterday were unsuccessful as Stabroek News was told that he was meeting with members of the Board of Directors of the company.

That same day, the Fire Chief in a brief comment contended that if there were no combustibles in the storage area as claimed, the fire should not have happened.

Additionally, on the night of the second fire, Gentle suggested that there was not enough diligence in this area.

On the other hand, a source from Gafoor’s said that the building was only recently completed and was not even equipped with electricity or sprinklers as yet.

According to the source, the blaze was contained to Bond Six because they took the advice of the Fire Service to install PVC instead of galvanized roofing. This caused the flames to go upwards and aided in the prevention of the fire spreading to the other buildings.

The source, while thankful that the fire was not as significant as the previous one, noted that it was still a major blow to the company and very devastating to the owner and staff.

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