Businesswoman Jocelyn Dow lost her home, while several businesses were displaced after a fire ripped through her three-storey property at Charlotte Street early yesterday morning.
While the second and third floors of the Lot 173 Charlotte Street property were gutted by the fire, the bottom floor, which housed several businesses, was saved and firefighters were praised both for their quick response and preventing the flames from spreading to neighbouring structures.
Dow, who lived on the third floor, told Stabroek News that she was alerted to the fire a few minutes after 5 am, when she heard her fire alarms. She said she quickly got up to check what might have triggered them. “I got up and went to the back and I didn’t see anything, so I came down to the middle, which I occupy too, and I noticed smoke coming up from the bottom western side,” Dow said.
She added that she immediately rushed back to the third floor to find her pets.
After finding her four dogs, Dow said she rushed out of the burning building and was greeted by firefighters, who had already arrived on the scene.
Dow said not “a stitch of clothing, a spectacle, a pen, a piece of jewellery, nothing” was saved from her home but she was most devastated by the destruction of the art gallery on the second floor, including artwork she had collected and stored.
She lamented the loss of the “fantastic, old artwork,” that she had been collecting since 1960, along with all of her paintings and other artifacts.
Though she noted that the property was insured, Dow was unable to estimate how much she might have lost in the fire and dubbed her collection as “irreplaceable.”
The bottom floor of the property housed several businesses, including Trans Caribbean Cargo Inter-national, Anetha’s African Boutique, Target Pest Control Services, Hard-wood Veneers (Guyana) Limited, and the Westmaas Acupuncture Clinic. They were spared from the flames but all suffered major water damages.
Aretha Daniels, owner of Anetha’s African Boutique, told Stabroek News that she could not estimate how much she has lost but “almost all” of her goods had been soaked by water. Daniels was standing under the shed of a building obliquely opposite the burnt property with the goods that she was able to save.
“Everything is wet, nothing burned but it’s all damaged now, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve already transported at least two truckloads of clothing and just waiting for another one to go,” she said, before that she is unsure of what her next course of action will be.
Many of the other business owners related that they were devastated at what had occurred. In addition to the loss of their equipment, furniture and other property, some of them had their clients’ properties at the site and they were damaged. Most of them estimated their losses to be “in the millions.”
Dow was unsure of how the fire started as was the Guyana Fire Service. However, residents pointed out that the fire started from the section of the bottom flat that housed the Target Pest Control Services before it engulfed the upper floors of the building.
Residents also commended the work of the fire service, which they said was very efficient. “You have to give jack he jacket. They reached fast and then they were able to just keep it to the two floors upstairs and is only water damage most of the downstairs,” one neighbour said, while stating that the fact that the firefighters prevented the building on the west “from getting bun up” was also commendable.
Dow was also the victim of a fire in 2016, when the Liana Cane furniture factory at Sparendaam, of which she had been the founder and managing director, was reduced to ashes by a fire.