A fire last night devastated a Cummings Lodge, East Coast Demerara apartment complex, which had provided housing to scores of students of nearby tertiary institutions.
The fire of unknown origin began sometime around 8.30pm at the two-storey “Off Campus Lodge” and up to press time this morning fire fighters were still making efforts to source water from a nearby canal to completely put out the flames.
Although there were three fire tenders at the scene as well as support from the prison service, the inability to properly source water continually hampered the efforts of the firefighters to put out the fire.
The firefighters made attempts to source water from a nearby canal but this proved futile as it was overtaken by vegetation and silt. There are no fire hydrants in the area. However, as the flames subsided, persons from another apartment building were seen throwing water on the burning debris.
The Third Street, Cummings Lodge apartment building housed local and international students from the University of Guyana (UG), the Rajiv Gandhi Medical School, the Cyril Potter College of Education and young working adults in its 25 single and double-room apartments.
One tenant, who did not give his name, told Stabroek News that he was in his apartment when he smelled something burning. Upon investigating, he saw smoke emanating from an apartment on the bottom flat of the western side of the building.
The UG student explained that he raised an alarm and efforts were made to put out the fire but they were unsuccessful. The student explained that he did not get to save any of his personal items.
Stabroek News was told that the occupant of the apartment in which the fire allegedly began was not at home at the time.
Meanwhile, Raphael Fraser, a first-year Communication Studies student at UG, said after hearing the alarm raised he rushed out of his apartment and saw the opposite apartment smoking.
He said those who responded made attempts to put out the fire but it quickly caught on some electrical wire and spread throughout the building. “We couldn’t have done anything then, we just let everyone know the building was on fire,” he said. “I managed to save my bags and some books… look my condition, I didn’t save anything else,” he added.
The building, he noted, was not equipped with any fire extinguishers.
Another occupant of the building, Sachin Persaud, explained that he was in his room when he felt a heat and upon enquiring he was told the building was on fire. Persaud, who occupies an apartment with his brother, added that he got confused and did not manage to save any valuables from the building. Persaud ran out of the burning building clothed in his trousers alone.
One man had hoped his apartment could have been saved but his hopes died after the flames rekindled for a second time and reached his apartment. He stated he did not get to save any item as well.
When the fire started, some of the occupants were not at home and only learned of the fire through phone calls from friends.
Some occupants managed to save their important documents and some escaped with their suitcases.
As flames consumed the building, occupants helplessly looked on. Some were comforted while others tried to be brave. While friends offered some a place to rest their heads for the night, many were uncertain where they would go.
Throughout the fire, explosions were heard from gas bottles that were in the apartments.
At the scene, hundreds gathered and expressed disappointment that the fire service could not have put out the fire fast enough.
On Thursday two homes in Cummings Lodge were lost to another fire. Just after midday the mysterious fire destroyed one of the Lot 328 Fifth Street, South East Cummings Lodge houses, while the upper flat of the other was razed.
A neighbour related that around 12pm she saw thick, black smoke emanating from the house at the rear of the property. “We don’t know how it catch fire and by the time the fire service came the whole thing done bun down.
Within 10 to 15 minutes, it catch to the other front house and bun up the upstairs,” the woman related, while pointing out that it took the fire service some 30 minutes to arrive on the scene.